Some residents struggling to get back home a year after Marengo home explosion

St. Clair family trying to get back home a year after Marengo explosion

Mike St. Clair of Marengo works on repairing his garage on Sunday, July 1, 2018 in Marengo. The St. Clair family is still rebuilding their home following an explosion in the summer of 2017.
Mike St. Clair of Marengo works on repairing his garage on Sunday, July 1, 2018 in Marengo. The St. Clair family is still rebuilding their home following an explosion in the summer of 2017.

Some Marengo residents are facing legal snarls and problems rebuilding their homes more than a year after an explosion displaced dozens of them.

Dawn and Mike St. Clair’s home exploded June 11, 2017. The blast, caused by a gas leak, destroyed several homes and damaged at least 50 others.

The community rallied around victims in the months afterward, but the St. Clairs still are displaced.

They have until Sept. 1 to get back into their home before the insurance company will stop paying the rent on their temporary home. The couple has been paying their full $1,500 mortgage payment as details of the rebuilding efforts are ongoing. If insurance payments run out, they will be stuck with an additional $1,500 rent bill, Dawn St. Clair said.

The family has taken legal action as they have struggled with their contractor, who they said failed to give them a timeline for completion of the work and only has finished about 50 percent of the project.

“He just keeps asking for more money,” Dawn St. Clair said. “He won’t give us a schedule. Being green and never having to do this before, I just thought he would do the right thing. We were overwhelmed with all of this. It has been a nightmare. We just need to get into our house.”

The St. Clairs received some funding from M.O.R.E Center donations to offset the devastation, Dawn St. Clair said.

Overall, the center distributed $147,192 to affected families, which totaled at least 89, the center’s director Robert Botts said. Amounts varied and were determined based on need, he said.

The St. Clair family is working with Crystal Lake-based lawyer James McConnell to resolve the problem. The two recently ended the contract with Marengo-based Bilmar Home Improvement Inc. as a result of the problems they said they are having.

McConnell alleges the contractor failed to follow regulations set out by the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act, such as providing lien waivers, sworn statements and a “reasonable schedule” for work to be completed.

“[Bilmar] won’t give us breakdown of what subcontractors he has paid and how much remains due to them for future work,” McConnell said.

Bilmar said the family has “continuously failed to make timely payments,” owes the company $33,790, and Bilmar has stopped work because of the debt.

“Bilmar’s services will remain suspended until full payment is received,” said Bilmar’s lawyer, Ryan Parrent, in a letter to McConnell. “Thus, Bilmar cannot, and will not, provide a reasonable schedule to complete services.”

Bilmar also said it’s not held to the repair and remodeling act because the St. Clair house would qualify as an “original residence,” according to Parrent’s letter.

The St. Clairs have paid Bilmar about $180,000 of the quoted $265,500 total costs, McConnell said.

“The St. Clairs are looking for a new contractor to finish the work, and if it ends up costing more than the quoted price, we will sue for the difference,” he said.

And the costs likely will be more, Dawn St. Clair said.

Insulation work, some electrical and HVAC work, flooring, cabinetry and finishing touches still must be completed, she said.

“It will cost more,” she said. “It always does when a new person comes in. We haven’t gotten all bids in, but so far it’s more than what Bilmar bid.”

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