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1st Davenport city council meeting since collapse, community speaking out

Dozens were protesting before the June 7 meeting, and public comments took over an hour with people upset at building owner Andrew Wold and city leaders.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — The Davenport City Council met for the first time since the collapse at 324 Main Street

Before the Committee of the Whole meeting at 5:30 p.m. on June 7, dozens protested outside city hall with some former tenants at the location. Several had red paint on their hands, chanting 'blood on their hands' with matching signs held up.

"This should've been condemned years ago," protestor Katie Stuart said. "If you look at the trail of things wrong with this apartment, and all the people that had complained about things, it goes way back."

"There's three families who lost loved ones, and [the owner Andrew Wold] doesn't seem to care, the city doesn't seem to care very much," former tenant Mia Lugo said. "I think people need to speak up about it and spread awareness."

Almost all the seats were filled at the council meeting. At the start, Mayor Mike Matson recognized the tragedy with a moment of silence. Not long after, alderman-at-large JJ Condon made an emotional appeal to the community.

"Please know that all of our hearts are collectively broken, and I hope having the opportunity here tonight give you whatever you need," Condon said.

The council approved up to $600,000 of emergency funds to assist families and businesses displaced by the disaster. 7th ward alderman Derek Cornette suggested the city not source the money from federal COVID pandemic (ARPA) funds and acquire the funds elsewhere, but a vote on that failed.

After all other agenda matters were addressed, city council opened the floor for public comment, which took over an hour.

One speaker was Alicia Goossens, owner of Gilly's Corner Tap. She described frustration at the city's handling of her liquor license compared to Andrew Wold.

"How do we hold him accountable? Are we gonna renew his license next year? Are you guys held accountable for the city not doing their job?" Goossens said.

"When do we stop them and say hey, you got all these lawsuits against you, your building you didn't take care of killed three people," one man said. "Maybe it's time to step back as being a slumlord and let somebody else take over. Can we do that?"

Lisa Brooks, a former resident who was rescued from the building asked city officials to do more for those displaced.

"What you all gonna do for all those people in the building, that's walking around homeless?" Brooks said. "People got kids out here homeless on the streets."

After the meeting, News 8's Jonathan Fong approached city administrator Corri Spiegel and asked her "how could the city ignore all the red flags surrounding the building?" Spiegel did not respond at first. After being asked several times if she had anything to say to the community, she told Fong "I don't think your behavior and respectful treatment of me is appropriate, sir."

The meeting also comes after the filing of three different lawsuits this week, all alleging negligence on the City's part. 

The lawyers for Peach and Lexus Berry, Peach being the woman whose leg had to be amputated for her to be rescued from the collapse, spoke with the press on Wednesday afternoon. 

“My wife is a very strong person, and I am, too,” Lexus Berry said at the news conference. “All that we want is accountability to be able to have closure and to know why this happened, and to be able to move forward with our lives.”

“We are survivors,” she added.

The couple seeks unspecified damages to compensate for the medical bills, emotional distress and lost wages, according to the filing.

Watch more coverage of the collapse on News 8's YouTube channel

City documents, released last week and cited in the lawsuits, suggest concerns were conveyed to the city and property owner Andrew Wold over the course of months.

Tenants also complained to the city in recent years about a host of problems they say were ignored by property managers, including no heat or hot water for weeks or even months at a time, as well as mold and water leakage from ceilings and toilets. While city officials tried to address some complaints and gave vacate orders to individual apartments, a broader evacuation was never ordered, records show.

“The owner of this building was aware, the city of Davenport was aware, the engineering companies and construction people were aware. This was a completely preventable tragedy,” said attorney Andrew M. Stroth, who is representing Peach and Lexus Berry, in an interview with The Associated Press.

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