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Owners of Horizon West Condo in Waukesha recall construction scare a year later

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) — Condo owners gathered today, exactly one year after police forced them to evacuate their Waukesha homes for fear the building would collapse.

Forty-eight units are inside Horizon West Condos. The occupants remember the feelings of uncertainty of that cold night. Some old people, some teenagers, home alone – now, with a common thread – the grief they just can’t shake.

“We’re still here. It hasn’t gone away for them,” said Diane McGeen, daughter of the condo owner.

Diane McGeen’s 87-year-old mother has had a tough year after panicking about being forced out of her fourth-floor home at Horizon West Condos.

“It was almost like being on the Titanic when it sank. It was 15 minutes, get out, you can never live here again,” McGeen said.

Here is Horizon West Condos, on West Avenue in Waukesha today. A year ago it was declared structurally unstable.

“There was panic everywhere, people in the hallways saying is this true? Is this true? Is this really happening?” said McGeen.

The resulting scars were both physical and emotional.

“While moving, she got a stress fracture in her back, and then it triggered her. And then she started having more heart problems,” McGeen said.

Right now, Ione Kohler is back in the hospital, her sixth trip last year.

“And before that, she was vibrant, active and very healthy,” McGeen said.

Of the 48 families affected, we learned that some are still homeless – living with a family member, sleeping on couches. Some who chose to rent an apartment saw their credit suffer as they could no longer pay their mortgage.

“Last year was really hectic. The first two or three months I was in a pretty deep depression,” said Laurel Peterson, a condo owner.

Laurel Peterson showed us this photo of her daughter in their second-floor condo before the rush out.

“We grabbed what we could. We didn’t know where we were going, what exactly was going on,” Peterson said.

The condo owners did their best to stick together, filing a lawsuit against Travelers Insurance for non-payment of claims, but a judge ruled against them. The owners are attractive. Meanwhile, the city tries to force the co-owners to pay for the demolition of the building.

“Of course, we’re all in financial difficulty, so for us, it’s almost impossible to come up with that kind of money on our own,” Peterson said.

There is a hearing in January where a Waukesha County judge is expected to consider demolishing the building.

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