Tom Loewy: Hole in ground is at the heart of the rift

Tom Loewy

Rod Williams wants to set the record straight.

A 51-year-old Abingdon resident and builder for nearly half those years, Williams wants his neighbors to know a house will be constructed at 204 Froelich Lane.

He knows the foundation has been exposed for years. He knows people have given him the benefit of the doubt and understood while Doris, his wife for 31 years, battled a brain tumor.

That notion might be a little much to ask of Ryan and Julie Jones, the couple who live next to the gaping hole at 204 Froelich Lane. They have been to Abingdon City Council meetings since August 2006 looking for some idea of what will happen with the property.

The couple wanted some assurance, or a timeline or an end date. Now they are frustrated and angry.

Williams is still hopeful.

“All I need is a little more time,” Williams said Monday afternoon. “I know it is a lot to ask. I’m hoping to have most of construction done by summer.

“That’s the best I can hope for. It’s the best I can do.”

Problems beyond a property

No one is quite sure when the hole in the ground was dug at 204 Froelich Lane, but it was sometime during the first or second year of the 21st century.

Williams lived on the lane until 2004. He knew about the property’s shaky history.

“Angelo Mangieri owned the land for the entire neighborhood and he sold the plot at 204 to Rod Brown,” Williams said. “Rod and another guy were going to build a spec house.

“Well, the buyer of the spec house backed out and Rod Brown was left with the property. All he had was the foundation poured.”

Brown eventually offered Williams the property.

“That was in 2002,” Williams said. I didn’t really want the property, but I went ahead with. I figured I’d put a house up on the foundation and sell it.’

Not long after he purchased the property from Brown, Williams learned his wife had a brain tumor.

“I just had to put everything on hold while my wife had surgery,” he said. “She had a tumor in her left temporal lobe. I just didn’t know what would happen.”

By 2004, Doris lost her $47,000-a-year job as a nurse and Williams was shelling out $1,000 a month in medical bills.

“I can’t blame Ryan Jones or anyone else for being mad at me,” Williams said. “That foundation has been open for a long time.”

Time has not been Williams’ friend. In early 2007, Doris learned the tumor had returned to her left temporal lobe. Surgery was out of the question so she endured six weeks of chemotherapy.

She has three or four seizures every day, deals with memory loss and cannot drive a car.

The end in sight?

Though he is frustrated with the fact nothing has been done to the property, Ryan Jones said he’s “not looking to sue Rod Williams.”

“That empty basement foundation has been there a long time — since before I moved into my house,” Ryan Jones told the City Council in August 2006. “I know Rod Williams. He is a good man and I know he has been through a lot.

“I just want him to know that something needs to be done and I’m willing to work with him. I have a daughter who will be 2 soon. She’s running all over the place. And there are other kids on this street and in this neighborhood. Something needs to be done.”

Ryan Jones is more frustrated today and openly wonders if Williams’ status as an Abingdon native has prevented anything from getting done.

Abingdon Mayor Stephen Darmer said the council has listened to Jones’ concerns and he has personally “stayed on top of the issue.”

“Rod Williams isn’t getting a free pass,” Darmer said. “We want the property kept up and I have spoken with Williams on numerous occasions.

“I don’t think a lot of people know what he has gone through and I’m confident he will make good on this.”

Williams said he thinks the mayor and the council have gone out of their way to work with him. They have also pushed him and he said he does have a plan.

“I need medical benefits,” he said. “There is just no way we can continue to pay for medical bills without benefits.”

Williams is in the process of becoming a paramedic and hopes to work for Galesburg Hospitals Ambulance Service.

“That’s one of the reasons I can’t get things started until the spring, early summer of this year,” Williams said. “Look, I want this finished. I don’t want to keep paying for a hole in the ground.

“Ryan and his wife have a legitimate complaint. I’m just hoping for the time to finish that house. I’ve just been between a rock and hard place for so long now.”

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