ROCK FALLS – A restraining order barring employees from entering a recently condemned building was issued Wednesday morning – around the same time firefighters found workers inside, burning trash.
City officials learned that Lance Robinson of Sterling, owner of Micro Industries, and his workers still were entering the building at 200 W. Second St. despite its condemnation May 3 as public safety hazard.
City attorneys Lou Pignatelli and David Rice went to Whiteside County Court, to request an emergency injunction, and were granted a 10-day restraining order.
Around the same time they were in court Wednesday, firefighters responded to reports of smoke coming from Micro’s roof.
When they arrived, he spoke to Robinson and saw that employees were inside, Twin City Joint Fire Command Chief Gary Cook said.
The workers were “burning trash and rubbish,” and were using the ventilation system “to send the smoke downtown,” Mayor Bill Wescott said.
Once the restraining order was issued, police arrived around noon and removed the workers.
“That just shows you the mentality you’re working with here,” Pignatelli said.
“This is an interest of public safety. We have four engineers who say the building could fall down for any number of reasons.”
Robinson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In May, engineers determined that the north wall, which has large cracks and missing bricks, is in danger of collapsing, and that beams in the roof of the loading dock on West Second Street are deteriorated.
The city condemned the building and shut down operations until the wall was fixed.
At an appeals hearing June 26, Robinson told city officials that he owned the business, but not the building, and that he wouldn’t fight the condemnation.
He asked to be allowed to enter the building so he could clean it out, and liquidate the equipment, to make as much money as possible before walking away.
“It’s a big building,” Robinson said at the time. “I’d try 3 months and see where I’m at. Things move slowly, and we’re working on it daily, 40 hours a week.”
Rock Falls building inspector Mark Searing said he would consider the request, but then the city learned about the ongoing activity and decided to seek the restraining order.
Micro Industries designs and operates die casting machines for the processing of a variety of metal parts. The company was established in 1959, and in its recent history, has employed 50 to 100 people. It now has seven to 10.