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An elderly Sarasota woman is fighting to keep her home. The homeowner owes thousands of dollars in fines for code violations.
But, thanks to the help of a neighbor, she says many of those issues are fixed. Now, they're begging the city for a fresh start and asking for community support in a very public way.
You may have spotted the sign on Webber Street. It reads, "I'm a 90 year old widow. I've lived here 70 years. Now the City of Sarasota is trying to steal my house. Help!"
Inside that little pink house in the yard lives 90-year-old Marie Sikorski.
"My husband and I came down when our daughter first started the first grade," Sikorski said.
After losing her husband, the repair to-do list piled up, with rotting wood siding, a broken fence and debris covering the yard.
After getting complaints, the City of Sarasota began fining her $500 dollars a day. Doing the math, since September, that's a tab of more than $100,000.
"Everything they want their way," Sikorski said.
In stepped Miles G., her neighbor's son. He didn't know Marie, just that he wanted to help.
"I just thought it would be a small task, doing some things, satisfy the city and move forward," Miles said. "It's been quite a journey over the last 2 1/2 months. I've just done mostly cleaning up, taking down fence and just little handyman stuff."
Though neighbors we spoke to don't want to get involved in the situation, they tell us they can see the progress.
Miles admits, he's not a licensed contractor. That's something the city takes issue with. Despite hearings, the fines still stand. So, as a last resort, Miles got some wood, pulled out the leftover paint, and posted the large signs outside Sikorski's home.
"I needed to get the community involved and let them know about her story because really secretly and quietly, the city has been charging her $500 a day and I think probably, very likely, they would have taken the house quickly and quietly and no one would have known the story," Miles said.
A City Spokesperson tells FOX 13 that this has been "an ongoing issue for two years." They got involved because of "serious health safety and welfare concerns/complaints." But, the city "has no interest in taking anyone's home."
"It's been a blessing to be able to help her," Miles said.
Marie Sikorski is just thankful for the support. Since the sign went up, she's gotten everything from donations to offers from contractors to help.
"It's been wonderful to meet different people," Sikorski said.
City Manager Tom Barwin said neighbors have brought up concerns about this home for years. They are working with SIkorski on the fines. If there's financial hardship, he said the City will likely have the fines waived.
As for the fate of the house, it's still up in the air. We'll bring you updates as hearings continue.
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