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Bank of America avoids fine

The nation's biggest bank agreed, Tuesday, to pay demolition costs for a Riverdale house it denies owning, and will not have to pay thousands of dollars in contempt fines imposed in April.

The lawyer for Bank of America, Wayne Phears, refused to comment on any aspect of the case, following City Court Judge Ronald Freeman's ruling.

The order Phears and City Attorney Deana Johnson signed denies that the bank owns the property at 6878 Cedar Hill Court.

"They still say they don't own it; we say they should have come to court," said Johnson. "They are going to reimburse the city for the costs to tear down the house."

The decision was welcome news to Pat Rowley, who lives two doors from the dilapidated house.

"I am thrilled," said Rowley. "There is no reason why we should have to look at that. And it is a most extreme danger to children."

The house caught fire in December 2008, forcing the owners to move out. The property went into foreclosure and city officials maintained that the Bank of America is its rightful owner. As the house started falling apart and grass grew high, violating community codes, the city sent the bank notices ordering them into court to address charges the property is a nuisance.

All the notices were ignored, said Johnson, and Freeman held the bank in contempt, imposing a $500 per day fine on April 19. On May 31, Freeman ordered a $17,500 lien placed on the property when the bank again failed to appear in his court.

The bank asserts in the order that the subpoenas were either not received, or improperly served.

In court Tuesday, Freeman vacated the fines and ordered that the bank pay $1,500 in court costs July 26. City workers will demolish the house and the bank will pay Riverdale up to $6,950 within 30 days of the work.

Rowley hopes the lot, once the house is removed, will be properly maintained.

"Hopefully, they will keep the grass mowed," she said. "I'd like to thank the city when this is all over for everything it has done. This has made my day."