It's a pretty serious situation, even for a guy who has encountered worse.
H. Jermaine Cox was at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 2002 when his now-ex-wife bought their home in Davenport. A year later, the Marine was serving in Iraq, "as part of the first push into the country at the start of the war."
Back in Davenport, everything seemed fine.
For the first five years, Cox's house at 1023 W. 14th St. was OK. No problems. But heavy rains in 2007 flooded the yard, which is the lowest lying in the neighborhood. With every heavy rain thereafter, Cox had to pump several feet of water off his property.
Real estate disclosure laws were in place when the home was sold in 2002, but no disclosure was made regarding the serious and chronic flooding.
Cox went to every city official he could think of to get help. Was there a way to redirect the water? Were loans available to fix the problem? Could the city do anything, up to and including buying the property?
"I could never sell it to somebody else," Cox said. "I have a conscience."
Now deemed disabled for his severe PTSD, resulting largely from a deadly firefight in Iraq, Cox has becoming increasingly frustrated over the seemingly hopeless situation at home.
In a July 2015 email to Cox, Bruce Berger, Community Planning & Economic Development director for Davenport, wrote, "... we have the engineering recommendation that the water problem is too prohibitively expensive and/or impossible to rectify and so the house should be razed."
In other words, the city said the house is so bad, it should be torn down. But the declaration would represent the conclusion of the city's involvement, sort of.
"This is what ticks me off: The city said they would help," Cox said Monday. "As a disabled vet with child support to pay, it would exhaust all of my money to try to fix it or buy the pumps to keep it dry, and I wouldn't be able to eat.
"It's in the process of foreclosure now. Why make me go through foreclosure when no one can live in the house? The city has had three budget cycles to work this into, and they didn't. They also get FEMA money, but I evidently don't qualify, because my house isn't in the floodplain."
Cox offered to sell the property to the city for $50,000 but didn't reach a deal.
"There has to be a better solution than foreclosure," he said. "When that happens, it becomes the city's problem."
Some would say, because the city's problems are taxpayers' problems, waiting for foreclosure might be the more financially responsible position to take. If it goes into foreclosure and is deemed a nuisance property that cannot be repaired or sold, the city saves the $50,000 purchase price and pays only the cost of demolition, which is estimated at $20,000.
"His (Cox's) summary is accurate that we could not find a financial resource to acquire and demolish," Berger wrote in an email Tuesday. "We explored FEMA and other potential assistance opportunities, but nothing fit this situation.
"This property may fall into the category of abandoned houses that, unfortunately, are unable to be salvaged with the costs substantially outweighing the value. Ultimately, this outcome likely results in demolition. Jermaine was very forthright in discussing the situation and I know was hoping that the City or someone would acquire it. Maybe someone will still come forward to acquire, but in this situation, it will not likely be the City."
Less than 24 hours after Berger sent his email response to questions about Cox's property, an excavator showed up in Cox's backyard — parked right up to the garage door.
"The city taped a notice to my door in December, saying the garage was deemed a nuisance," Cox said Wednesday. "They said the siding wasn't in compliance. I fixed it once, but I suppose all the moisture in the walls froze and pushed it back out. I got an email from the city with several names on it, and I replied that I needed more time, because it was December.
"I didn't get a response.
"The garage door is brand new, and I have my snowblower in there. I just can't believe they didn't tell me when they were going to come tear it down."
Standing on his driveway Wednesday afternoon, Cox noticed someone had disconnected the power supply to the garage, presumably in preparation for demolition.
Late in the afternoon, Davenport Public Works Director Nicole Gleason returned a phone call and explained about the garage demo. She said the city's Intent to Demolition was sent on Dec. 9. Given Cox was sent his first notice about the condition of his garage roof and siding in June 2014, she said, he had plenty of warning.
But I pointed out it's been four months since the city had any communication with Cox about the garage. Was anyone going to let him know when the demo crew was coming, so he could remove items of value?
"Honestly, probably every other property on the (city's demo) list is empty — vacant for years and years and years," she said. "So, that's a good point."
Gleason acknowledged it may be a good idea for Davenport to adopt a new policy that gives a second notice to homeowners whose property is not in compliance when they still are living there.
"This is a very unique situation," she said, adding that all 21 homes and garages torn down by the city last year were vacant.
It seems likely Cox's house soon will be vacant, too. He has run out of viable options.
"I'll be out a place to live and my credit score," he said. "I'm more than burned out on this. It's kind of depressing: You have a property you tried to save, and you're out of luck.
"I can't say I was a victim. I should have been wiser.
"Now my neighbors think it's my fault there are snakes all over here. I don't like them, either.
"Honestly, I don't know what to do. All I know is it's heading into foreclosure. I can't afford to fix it. If I had the money, I'd take out a billboard, saying, 'This property floods. Do not buy!'"