To the editor:

 I’m writing this letter to the editor to defend ourselves and set right incorrect information printed on the front page of the Summit on Aug. 28. I feel the article portrayed us in an unflattering manner. I was hurt after reading the article, my husband was irate, but I was hurt. I feel that after reading the article, one would get the impression that after our house fire, we just threw our hands up and said; “oh well… now we can abandon this old house and build ourselves a new one!” This is completely untrue! 

 That house had been in my family for 40 years.  I loved that house ever since I walked in and my mother setting me free, telling me to run upstairs and pick out my bedroom. I bolted up the stairs and ran into the first one I saw… THAT was my room, pink flowered wallpaper and green shag carpet and all! I was in love with it. My mother followed me up and questioned if I wouldn’t want to check out the other rooms to make sure that was the one I wanted. I did peek at the others, but came straight back… I knew that was definitely my room! That house was filled with a lot of good memories for me; sliding down the stairs on our tummies with my brother and sister, handing up my freshly washed doll clothes on a rope my mother strung around two trees as she hung her wash out on the clothes line, sitting around Christmas trees, riding big wheels up and down the sidewalk, playing yard games with neighborhood friends… and then more after we bought it from my parents.

 It’s where my daughters finished growing up, we made it a home for several years to Jeni, who we became legal guardians to while she was in middle school, it’s where Brody came home as a baby and was his home for three years. It was the perfect location to walk him to and from his first year of preschool. 

 We absolutely didn’t throw our hands up and say; “oh well…” It was my full intention to keep the house, fix it up and live in it again. My husband knew otherwise. He knew what needed to be done, how much it might cost, and what kind of money we’d received from insurance. But he didn’t let me in on that until I had some time to grieve the loss… of our home and our belongings: my daughters baptismal dress handmade by my sister-in-law, my daughters art projects, family photos, items I received from my grandmother after she passed away…the list goes on and on.

Now I’d like to address some of the inaccurate facts printed in the Summit’s article.  Councilwoman Suzanne Murphy was quoted in saying that we hadn’t sold the house until April of this year, and “that the house sat for two years and the (prior owners) did nothing. Why weren’t they taking care of it?” I don’t know myself if she was misquoted or not, but those facts are untrue.  The house fire was in November 2011, we sold it November 2012. One year after the fire. My husband boarded up the windows and holes in the roof to keep out the elements, but after that, we were instructed by our insurance company not to do anything else until the claim was settled. He cleaned up the yard debris the best he could, kept the sidewalks and driveway clean from snow and the following summer, kept the yard mowed. 

Ron Holland was then quoted, “(Schlingmanns) built a new house.” Which is a true fact, but then Murphy was quoted again, “They still should have been taking care of it.”  In my opinion, we were taking care of it. It’s also our opinion that those quotes spoken and printed could be considered defamation of character.  Nobody came to us to ask if these facts were true nor was the information about the time frame of when we sold the house looked up on public record. 

My husband and I have talked with Mayor Rick Skjeie, and he kindly offered to write a letter on behalf of the city council to the Summit letting them know of the inaccurate facts, and now we also would appreciate a letter of apology from the Summit as well. Our feelings and reputations were not considered prior to writing this article.  Facts and statements were not researched to find out if they were true or false.

I’d finally like to address how the city handled the matter with the current owner, Charles (Chaz) Hassel. I can see that they’d want the property taken care of, fixed up and so on… but consideration for him being in the National Guard, Waldorf College and soccer needed to be further addressed. Chaz started out with ambition and a big dream. He could see what the house still had to offer and what it could once again be. One issue might have been that a neighbor is considering selling their home and the property could have a negative effect on that goal. For that, I sympathize. But I’d like to bring up those former neighbors, Deb Blaser Gretillat and Craig and Lynda Van Syoc sold their homes relatively quickly, for Forest City standards, in my opinion. And I truly hope that it won’t defect from the selling of another neighbor’s home.

And I’d like to end with a question, “how is the Forest City Police Department progress coming along?’ That fire was before our house fire.  What improvements have been done on that property on behalf of the city?

Gina Schlingmann

Forest City

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