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Property owner wants answers after back of building knocked out

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EAST ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- A man tried to turn up the heat in his building, but discovered the heating system and the entire back side of his building were missing.   And no one can explain it.

The building is owned by Richard Smith, a St. Louis business man.  For almost seven years he did tax preparation there, and he had plans to start another project.

Smith was shocked to discover someone had knocked out the back wall of the building near East St. Louis City Hall.  Since his tax business is seasonal, he`s not there every day.  He came over Sunday for a meeting about another project.   "It caught me completely by surprise.  I looked at it, and I couldn`t even assert what was the cause of it," he said.

Soon after arriving for the meeting, smith went to turn up the heat.  When it didn't kick on, he assumed he had a furnace problem.  When he opened the door to investigate he sees daylight.  Once outside, he walks to the back.  His gas service was disconnected. He says he saw utility flags on the ground.  "The gas, water, and electric lines, they were all marked.  So who ever did it, they had the, thought, if we`re going to do this we`re taking a chance on the gas leaking so we`re going to cut it off. So the person who did this was knowledgeable," he stated.

Smith says he doesn`t know if it happened during the day or sometime after dark.  "The ground was still wet.  And that`s when we saw the tracks of heavy equipment," he explained.

His son last visited the property about a week before thanksgiving.  For a moment he thought East St. Louis officials might have some answers.   "They did not know anything about this.   Nobody had authorized it.  There wasn`t even a work order or anything," Smith said.

I spoke with the East St. Louis City Manager. She told me the same thing.  The police chief says his department will investigate.  In the meantime, the building is condemned.  That will impact Smith's new project, a sustainable community resource center.  "It has to do with rehabilitation of homes, establishment of jobs.  Things like that. This is something new we`re venturing into, and we were going to set up a base here."

Richard Smith says he doesn't know what's going to happen with that project.  A spokesperson for Ameren Illinois says there's been no request placed to have the service disconnected. And at this point the only record they have is that a call was placed about the odor of gas.  But nothing was found.

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