The city of Aurora went to court to seek access to a townhouse filled with perhaps hundreds of birds after the owner said he couldn’t afford to pay the $13,000 the city planned to charge him to capture his pets.
David Skeberdis, 57, conducted an impromptu news conference for a small flock of reporters outside his residence, which was roped off with yellow police tape outside, and inside was filled with anywhere from 80 to 300 parakeets, conures and other birds, some of them dead.
“They want me to sign a bill, that I’m liable for $13,000. That’s not for cleaning – that’s just for taking the birds out.” he said. “That’s a little steep, I think.”
Skeberdis, a computer repair technician, said he could not afford the amount.
The city had declared his townhouse unfit for habitation last week after a painting contractor reported seeing perhaps hundreds of birds flying around the residence in the 200 block of Shadybrook Lane.
Hazmat personnel entered the residence and took air samples, which showed high mold counts, according to the city.
Aurora Assistant Fire Chief John Lehman said Wednesday that authorities had counted up to 300 birds, including several dead birds, inside the townhouse, which police said was filled with trash.
Skeberdis disputed that number and said he thought 80 to 100 birds was a more accurate count.
The city had prepared paperwork authorizing a third party contractor to enter Skebedris’ residence and capture the birds, but Skeberdis said he backed out of signing the agreement when he saw the $13,478 cost.
City Attorney Alayne Weingartz said Aurora planned to go before a judge either later Wednesday or Thursday to seek an order that would authorize its contractor to enter the property to begin capturing the birds.
In an update released later Wednesday, Aurora city officials said they got a Kane County Court order allowing them to collect the birds with help from a caged bird club and professional bio-recovery personnel.
The city is in the process of notifying Skeberdis, warning him they will begin removing the birds starting at 10 a.m. Friday, and he will be responsible for any costs and possible fines.
Skeberdis, who is currently living in an extended stay hotel, was cleaning Wednesday and waiting for a bird group to deliver cages. He also said he was seeking pro bono legal aid to fight the city.
However, he must do the work alone, because the city health order bans anyone but Skeberdis from entering the residence.
“I know the city doesn’t think I can do this on my own, but I can,” he said.
He led reporters and TV camera operators to the back of the townhouse where he has lived for 20 years so they could peer into a basement window. Inside, dozens of parakeets could be seen flying about.
Skeberdis said his bird collection started in April 2005, when he rescued a parakeet that had flown into a mirrored wall at United Airlines, where he then worked in IT. He nursed the bird back to health and eventually bought eight other parakeets, which he said “multiplied geometrically.” Along the way he took in other birds people brought him, and also acquired eight conures, he said.
“It got out of control,” Skeberdis admitted.
He said he has taken two weeks’ vacation to clean up, and wants to deploy air cleaners once the birds are captured in an attempt to reduce the mold to tolerable levels.
“I've got to give it the good old college try because I can’t afford a lien on my house,” Skeberdis said.
Although the air inside Skeberdis’ residence was deemed unhealthy, tests at his neighbors showed no signs of mold, Lehman said.