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Summit Apartments residents told they can stay; As gas leak is fixed, some tenants turn down offer of free hotel rooms

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Most of these tenants at Roswell Summit Apartments say they were choosing Friday to stay in their units rather than go to free hotel rooms while work on gas lines continue. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Some tenants at Roswell Summit Apartments say they have decided not to leave their units after being given that option Friday, although most units remained without gas service for a sixth day.

A handful of tenants at the apartment complex at 1600 W. Summit St., which serves the elderly and the disabled, said they have chosen to sign waivers to stay in their apartments rather than relocate to free hotel rooms on a temporary basis.

Tenants were given notices at 3 p.m. Thursday indicating that they would need to vacate by Friday at 4 p.m. while repairs and inspections of each unit were conducted due to a gas leak initially discovered Saturday. During repairs and testing of the first leak, more leaks involving several units were discovered.

But, according to several tenants and Jeff Curry with the property management firm, JL Gray Co., residents were told Friday that they could remain in their apartments if they signed documents indicating that they had been given the option of a hotel room.

“This is my home. I have two dogs,” said Tina Johnson about her decision to remain.

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While some tenants have expressed upset with how the situation was handled by on-site management— including some saying that information provided over the past days was unclear or misleading — Johnson was among those who said she thought staff deserved some recognition for what they were doing to help.

“There is a good side and a bad side,” she said. “They have prepared meals for us and have done everything they can for us.”

Jana Vaughn said, “They have done everything they could to meet our needs. It was inevitable that it was going to happen, so I am just glad it happened at a good time when the weather has been good.”

According to Chaves County online records, Roswell Summit Apartments were originally built in 1975. It consists of 13 one-story buildings with four apartments each, as well as an office building.

Vaughn added that management also had made available to her an empty unit at another complex for hot showers.

Curry said Friday afternoon that tenants who have remained can change their minds and go to a hotel at a later time if repairs are still ongoing. He said stipends for meals are being provided whether tenants stay or leave and that management is also reaching out to area agencies to help people with other needs they might have.

Curry said that he was not sure if gas had been restored to any unit yet, although one tenant said her unit did have gas service by Friday afternoon. Curry indicated that New Mexico Gas Co. is the agency to make decisions about whether gas service can be turned back on.

At least one tenant said that he was staying at the complex out of concern about thefts occurring if units are vacated and that a few other tenants had expressed to him a similar reason for not going to hotel rooms. Curry said that he had heard about tenants not wanting to be inconvenienced, but had not heard worries about security issues.

On Thursday, Curry said that assistance to tenants provided by the management firm and the property owner, YES Housing Inc. of Albuquerque, has included hot meals, electric heaters and stipends to pay for meals while stoves and ovens are out of commission. Community businesses also have helped in providing discounts on groceries and food, he said.

He added that there is no expectation of shutting the complex down for an extended time.

“Tenants will definitely not be permanently displaced, but we are bringing in crews to check and repair every unit,” said Curry on Friday. “We expect this to take at least one week.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.