Cape Coral, Florida (News-Press) -- Sweat trickles down her neck. It's a Wednesday after 4 p.m. and 95 degrees inside Robin Speronis' Cape Coral duplex. The structure has been proclaimed uninhabitable a number of times over the last year. And she's doggedly refused to connect to the electrical grid or city utilities — even ignoring hearings, like one Thursday.
The 55-year-old compares her ordeal to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz finding out that the great and powerful wizard is a toothless, old man. Her story has traveled the globe. Her battle has been called noble and manufactured. Speronis has written four books. She sends email blasts to officials throughout the city.
"They charge every resident for water and sewer whether they're using it or not," Speronis said. "(The way I live) I'm dangerous to the powers that be in city hall. I'm dangerous to their existence. That's why they try to terrorize me and break me ... to shut me up. If I was ever afraid, I'm certainly not now."
Her sewer remains capped since earlier this year. She goes to the bathroom in a bucket and disposes of the waste in the trash. No air conditioning, no running water, no electricity, just open windows, a slight breeze and the sound of her Chihuahua, Suzie, yapping incessantly.
After five weeks in jail on charges of animal abuse that were later dropped, having her dogs removed and later returned and an expose in Bloomberg Businessweek, Speronis is cheerful. She's been contacted by people interested in doing a documentary. Others have wanted to put her on television. She believes her life is going exactly as it's meant to.
"(This situation) isn't dictating to me," Speronis said. "I'm dictating to it."
At a Thursday morning code compliance hearing before Special Magistrate Harold Eskin, Speronis was again a no-show. To code enforcement officials, her case is like any other. Listed under her company, Off-the-Grid Living Inc. is a litany of violations. Out of 48 violations, Speronis had been previously found guilty of 45. There's been no appeal or movement to comply.
"We will continue to use due process and legal measures available to enforce the codes of the city," said Connie Barron, spokeswoman for the city of Cape Coral. "The building official has pulled the certificate of occupancy ... this was the next step we decided to take to bring the property into compliance. Legally, she cannot be in the house."
Speronis' debt, between water, sewer and two code enforcement liens now equals almost $13,000. Florida state statute specifies that if a sewer system is available near a home, the property is required to connect. Barron said it's unusual for the city to escalate a case to this level.
"Even if they board the house up, I'm not leaving," Speronis said. "They did the best they could when they took my dogs and arrested me. It fell apart because I'm unshakable."
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