First Posted: 9/4/2014
The house frame stands, unfinished and weathered, on a small plot of land, surrounded by weeds. Although the owners hoped to be settled into their new home by now the only occupants of the structure so far have been a family of birds, as evidenced by a nest in the rafters. Light spills in through cracks in the walls, and a pile of old leaves decays in a corner.
The structure, located at 153 Second St., Harveys Lake, is owned by the Meade family. It occupies the sight of the family’s former home, which first suffered a small fire, then damage from hurricanes Irene and Lee in 2011, according to Marie Meade.
“We made it through the storm,” she said, adding she was even able to help others in need during the cleanup process. “Our storm should have ended. Our storm should not still be raging two years later.”
About a year ago, that storm escalated, Meade said, when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, as well as ITP, a blood disorder which affects blood platelets.
“This past Christmas,” she said, “it almost killed me.”
Surviving, she said, then became top on the priority list, the issues with the house taking position on the metaphorical back burner. Now, still undergoing treatments, but grateful to be alive, she said the rest of her family’s “storm” can’t be ignored.
The house structure and the circumstances surrounding its unfinished state are the object of dissension between neighbors, officials and community members.
Meade claims the contractor responsible for the structure abandoned the job without returning the cash, broke the contract, and took off with a portion of her lumber. She said when she contacted the Harveys Lake Police Department for help, Chief Charles Musial “did nothing” about it, determining no crime was committed.
She said she contacted the FBI regarding the matter, but was told it must go through local authorities first, so she presented her case to the Luzerne County District Attorney’s office on Aug. 4 and is awaiting a response.
The chief declined to comment on the issue, as did Borough Secretary Susan Sutton.
The contractor, Steven Zomerfeld III, of Wyoming, says there was no contract to begin with, just a rough estimate of cost. He said the payments he received covered sewer fees, back taxes on the property, excavation and other project costs. He said he actually “went above and beyond” what was required of him and was “lucky to pull out” when he did, receiving credit for the lumber, which he purchased himself.
He said he is no longer in the construction business, because of situations such as this.
“This whole situation here,” said Zomerfeld, “I mean, she (Meade) has been kind of stalking me in a way. She followed me into my bank numerous times. It’s just a mess, it really is.”
Zomerfeld, 29, made a private harassment complaint against Meade with the Dallas Police Department and Harveys Lake Borough, however no official charges were filed at either municipality.
In the meantime, the home still stands, unfinished, now with a Harveys Lake Building Code notice taped to the front declaring, “This Structure Is Unsafe. Its Occupancy Has Been PROHIBITED by the Building Code Official…”
The Meades rent a home several doors down, continuing to pay for their own property which is unable to be occupied.
On Aug. 19, Meade affixed two large signs to the front of the structure under the second floor windows, pleading for help from passersby.
The signs read:
“My family has weathered through a small house fire, a crippling work injury, then the ensuing workers comp. Scandal, a car accident, the Kids 4 Cash Scandal, loss of our home after Hurricanes Irene & Lee, another car accident, and CANCER,” reads the first sign. “Only to be cheated by our contractor STEVE ZOMERFELD (Zomerfeld Construction & Hauling) He took over $70,000.00 of our S.B.A. Disaster loan money & left us w/ this shell. He then (w/ help from HOLT LUMBER – Carbondale) took our remaining materials & returned them 2 HOLT 4 credit!!!! In ANY OTHER community it would be a crime 2 accept money & NOT finish the job. SPECIAL ‘thanks’ 2 H.L.P.D. 4 doing NOTHING!”
The text of the second sign reads, “STILL paying rent & a mortgage, sewer etc… while trying to raise money for my CANCER treatments. All the while my former contractor buys a home w/ his girlfriend Erin. Good 4 you both! [smile face] And the local police? 0! Nothing!! Our police chief does NOT feel a crime was perpetrated. Could NOT even get a proper police report to file an insurance claim 4 the materials theft. So, even TRAVELERS Insurance failed us.
“If you care 2 make a small donation please go 2 our GOFUNDME Site @ Gofundme.com/5vopm4 or Meade family @ P.O. Box 65 Harveys Lake, Pa, 18618.”