Dilapidated house owner claims financial hardship
An orchestra wouldn't be very interesting if it played just one note, said Robert Kobylarczyk, standing in the shade of the wildly overgrown arborvitae trees that hide the front of his house.
It was a steamy summer afternoon. The 63-year-old former legislative auditor for the state of Minnesota was talking to a reporter who had spotted him and stopped to ask about the city of Hudson's declaration of his house as unfit for human habitation and a public nuisance.
"Yeah, I know who you are," Kobylarczyk said when the reporter introduced himself, sounding suspicious of the reporter's motives. His dingy T-shirt with "Young America" written across the chest matched the grimy baseball-style cap he wore, covering long unkempt hair.
His ungroomed beard and sharp eyes added to an appearance that causes some people to move to the other side of Third Street when they walk past his house.
People need to go beyond appearances to learn the truth - and that includes the press, Kobylarczyk said.
The reason his house has fallen into disrepair is financial, he said, characterizing himself as an "economic casualty."
People see him and assume he's a bum - a vagrant, he said. But he once "played the game like everybody else." He wore a sports coat and tie to work as a legislative auditor for the state of Minnesota.
Kobylarczyk's 1996 divorce was a pivotal event for him. He told about coming home from car-shopping for his ex-wife, a former St. Croix County clerk of courts, to find her in the process of moving out of the house.
He had quit his job to stay home with the children, he said, and accounting was being done on computers, which he didn't have any training for, when he returned to the job market. The result was that he couldn't find a job in the field.
He didn't let the house that's been his home for 31 years fall into disrepair out of spite, he said. He doesn't have $15,000 to put new shingles on it, something more affluent people might not understand.
The four-year veteran of the Air Force and 19-year member of the National Guard is a proud man. He's turned down welfare aid offered to him by county workers. He can always find enough food for himself and his two bushy coated dogs, he said. There are single mothers with young children and senior citizens that pay a lot for prescription drugs that need the help more than him.
People sometimes offer him money when they see him on the street, assuming he is homeless. Tears welled in his eyes when he told about an elderly couple that pressed two dollar bills into his hand before getting into their old car with a few bags of groceries in the parking lot of the Econofoods store.
The dirty looks usually come from people in big SUVs and fancy new cars, Kobylarczyk said. Some people with big houses and expensive vehicles think they've got it all and have done it all by themselves, he said.
But they haven't. God has given them what they have, Kobylarczyk said. They're stewards of it. When they go to meet the supreme being, they'll have to give an account of what kind of stewards they have been.
The city of Hudson declared Kobylarczyk's house unfit for human habitation and a public nuisance when he failed to comply with an order to repair and clean it up following a Nov. 23, 2004, inspection by city officials.
According to the complaint, the house lacked a kitchen sink that is in good working condition and connected to the sewer system, an adequate bathroom, a safe way to enter and exit, a properly installed and maintained heating system, a watertight roof and a rodent-proof foundation. City officials also said the house had fire code violations.
Kobylarczyk maintained that the problems were greatly exaggerated, and some were completely bogus.
The city is asking St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham to condemn the property and order Kobylarczyk to vacate it if he doesn't comply with the city's order.
If the property isn't repaired, the city wants the house either razed or turned over to a receiver who will repair it.
Kobylarczyk has retained the law firm of Heywood, Cari and Anderson to represent him in the case. No further court hearing is scheduled at this point.
Randy Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org