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World War II veteran, 88, can't afford repairs to business, lands in jail

Kenneth Knudson, an 88-year-old World War II veteran, says he was fined and jailed for one night after he failed to produce a plan to fix his office building in downtown Horton, Kan.Fox4KC.com

An 88-year-old World War II veteran cited for a code violation for the condition of his Kansas office building recently found himself in jail after being charged with contempt of court. 

Kenneth Knudson, owner of Knudson Jewelry in Horton, was ordered to spend one night in jail after failing to come up with a plan to fix a portion of his downtown building, which has a cracked exterior wall and missing bricks, Fox4KC.com reported.

Knudson, whose story went viral on social media after it was published Monday, said he appeared in court on Dec. 23 and told a municipal judge that he did not have the money to fix the building. He told the station he was fined $100 and put in jail.

“I was on the planning commission for Horton, I’ve been the president of the chamber, I’ve been on the appeals board,” said Knudson, who describes himself as a "salt of the earth kind of guy."

The city offered to perform the repairs for $10,000 and apply the cost to Knudson's tax bill, but he said he could not afford the city's estimate. City officials say the building poses a potential hazard to the public and needs to be fixed. 

"There are crumbling bricks and a large crack, that could pose a hazard," Horton Police Chief John Calhoon told Hiawatha World. "People complain of eyesores and dilapidated buildings, which can be hazards or bring down the value of property. But if we ignore the laws, then that creates a liability."

Since word of Knudson's plight spread throughout the community, some contractors have offered to repair the building at little or no charge, Calhoon said. Knudson reportedly faces a $500 fine if he fails to have the work done before he returns to court later this month. 

Knudson told Hiawatha World he is grateful that people have stepped up to offer help but is still upset at his punishment, stating the city's building codes weren't designed to "put people in jail." 

"I don’t feel like I committed a crime," he said. "I can understand the city being concerned about vacant houses and other places in need of repair. But the crime didn’t fit the punishment in this case."

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