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Owner of collapsed building speaks out

By Dwayne Parker, Reporter, DParker@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 26 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 27 2013 03:56:44 PM CDT

Owner of collapsed building speaks out

READING, Pa. -

The owner of a building that collapsed Tuesday evening said he has been unfairly portrayed and wants to set the record straight.

The property, at Buttonwood and Birch streets in Reading, belongs to Harry Stouffer.

Wednesday, Stouffer gave 69 News a tour of the rest of the building that is still standing.

He wanted to showcase the work he has done to try to improve the condition of the building so that it would meet city codes requirements.

"I did some real first class work, not to knock it," Stouffer said.

City officials, however, told 69 News they were not so impressed by the condition of the building, especially after Tuesday's collapse.

"I should clarify," said Linda Kelleher, city clerk, "we know his address so well, because of complaints we've gotten from the neighboring properties. This property was a problem in that neighborhood."

Family members also said Stouffer is being unfairly portrayed.

"Ask some of the good neighbors here that will tell you, my father is a great guy. Ask some of the neighbors who my father really is," said Kim Pauley, Stouffer's daughter.

Wednesday evening, Stouffer could be seen loading his belongings into a U-Haul truck, still convinced he had not been given a fair shake by the city.

"What fell down when I went out and I looked at it was not what I call big. No more than some of the homes that have fallen down the same way, if you know what I'm saying to you?" said Stouffer.

Stouffer said he's not sure how long it will take him and his family to move all of his things out of the building. What is clear, he said, is that he plans to leave the city and travel north.

69 News received a call from city officials early Thursday morning after seeing this report.

Despite Stouffer's claims that the building is sound and safe, city authorities stressed the building has been condemned, has extensive structural issues, and an inspector is scheduled to come out to the property to examine the remaining hazards.

Officials also stressed they will be sending out workers to put a fence around the building to prevent any further entry into the property.