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City notifies tenants of potential condemnation

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The “red-tag” notices from the city of Roswell posted Monday evening on the doors of all units at Town Plaza Apartments at West McGaffey Street and South Sunset Avenue indicate that the property owners have until Jan. 17 to remedy the “dangerous” conditions or condemnation procedures will begin. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

City of Roswell officials have notified the managers and owners of a large apartment complex on the southwest side of the city that they have until Jan. 17 to take action to fix severe problems or the property will be condemned.

Notices were posted on the property Monday evening indicating that the Town Plaza Apartments at West McGaffey Street and South Sunset Avenue had been found by city inspectors to be “dangerous, dilapidated and damaged” and that the owner representative, listed as Lawrence F. Edmisten III of Sherman Oaks, California, had 10 days to contact city officials before condemnation procedures would begin.

Requests for comments from Edminsten, sent to an email address given on a city business license, were not responded to by press time. The on-site manager, John Ray, said he could not provide a phone number, indicating that Edminsten was moving office locations, but said about the owner and his son, “They are trying to get everything worked out. That’s all I can tell you.”

Some tenants were in the process of moving out Tuesday, with a couple saying that they have been complaining to the manager for months about various issues. The complex consists of about 17 separate buildings and more than 100 units, according to Chaves County property records.

“We haven’t had hot water for three months,” said Jordan Baxton, who said she has lived in the apartment with her two children for about two years and has been going to her mother’s house for showers and baths. “We’ve been told that they were going to fix it, going to fix it.”

Other problems she has noticed in her unit have included water leaks, bug infestations, intermittent water outages, toilet overflows and no heat, although space heaters were provided, which she said did keep the apartment warm.

Buxton found an apartment yesterday and was in the process of moving Tuesday afternoon.

Mikala Jacobs, who has lived at the apartment complex for a year, said her unit has visible water damage, black mold, no hot water, and a toilet that overflows and soaks the carpet.

She also had found another apartment.

Dylan Faucher said he really had no problem other than no hot water for a few weeks now and then. He said he had been told the problems will be fixed, but is looking for another place in case they aren’t.

Bill Morris, Community Development Manager, said that city officials noted many problems with the complex, from plumbing to roofing to mold.

He said the city is considering providing ways to help people, perhaps providing hotel rooms for a brief time, if they do not have alternative accommodations should condemnation proceedings occur.

“We are looking at all possible options at this point,” he said, “but there must be a serious effort to secure the health and safety of the residents.”

City documents indicate that complaints have been made about the property since at least 2015, some of which were forwarded to city officials by representatives of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Complaints listed open holes in ceilings, walls and floors; mold; exposed wiring; broken or missing windows and sliding glass doors; cockroach infestations; lack of smoke alarms; and no hot water.

A letter in 2015 from Miller Butts, addressed to “Whom It May Concern,” indicated that the city officials had inspected five units after receiving permission from tenants and gave the owner and management until Aug. 17, 2015, to remedy the issues.

Morris said that the city has sought to work with the property owner in the past.

“In the past, city inspectors would ‘red-tag’ individual apartment units, but, in multi-family development, there are common features like roofs, electrical and plumbing that interconnects the units, especially the roof. These common elements affect the entire building,” he wrote in an email. “Last Friday, city staff responded to a report that water was flowing out of an upstairs unit. Upon inspection, it became very evident that there were a large number of serious violations that posed potential threats to the health and safety of the residents. These violations include multiple water and sewer leaks, roof leaks, exposed electrical connections, evidence of vacant unsecured units having been used by vagrants and structural deterioration.”

Morris said that the city is looking into many alternatives.

“We have spoken with the on-site manager but have not, up to this point, been able to contact the property owner in California,” he wrote. “We will be meeting with an individual who has expressed an interest in purchasing this property to see if this place can be rehab-ed.”

Buxton expressed concern for other tenants, especially those with children, who might not have the finances to find another place. While some tenants had been paying no or only partial rent, given the need for repairs, at least one had been paying full rent and now, days after doing so, is moving elsewhere.

“It is a sad situation,” said Buxton. “I feel bad for the people who have been paying their rent and nothing got fixed.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.