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Trespassing reported at Town Plaza

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Although a fence has been erected around the closed Town Plaza Apartments, two areas where the fence has been broken could be seen on Wednesday. Police have been to the property numerous times since tenants left. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Roswell police frequently called to fenced-off property

Although the closed Town Plaza Apartments in Roswell are now fenced off, with several “Keep Out” signs posted, the southside property has seen a few trespasses and been the subject of a number of police visits during the past few months.

According to Roswell Police Department records, officers have been called to or have visited the property at the corner of South Sunset Avenue and West McGaffey Street at least 21 different times from Jan. 2 to April 9.

Ten of the police visits have occurred after all tenants were required to vacate the premises in late January. Two people were cited and pleaded “no contest” to criminal trespass in a March 12 incident, and police found evidence of someone on the premises when responding to a call Monday afternoon.

“The police department regularly patrols the site, as well as responding to the calls related to the vacated complex,” Todd Wildermuth, Roswell Police Department spokesman, wrote in an email. “The owner has constructed a fence around the site. We ask that anyone who sees activity at or around the closed site call police right away so the situation can be investigated and handled to maintain the safety of the public.”

Wildermuth noted that anyone on the property can be cited for trespassing because the city has condemned it. The city took action Jan. 7, posting notices on all unit doors indicating that the property had been determined to be unsafe and the property would be condemned unless the owner took actions to remedy the problems.

Both Wildermuth and city managers have indicated they understand that the owner, Lawrence F. Edmisten III, is negotiating with someone to either buy or take over the property. The apartment complex has nine buildings and 72 units built around 1963 and is located on 188,441 square feet of land, according to county records.

Edmisten did not respond to an email or a phone call at the contact information listed on a city business license for the property. For county property tax purposes, he gives the address of a UPS store in Sherman Oaks, California, but court records also indicate that he has a residence in Nogal, New Mexico.

Roswell Police Department officers also have not talked with Edmisten, according to Wildermuth, but have been able to talk to someone in communication with him.

When the city of Roswell ordered all tenants to leave the property in late January, it cited numerous safety and health concerns due to water and sewer leaks, damaged roofs, structural problems with the building, mold, broken windows and doors, transient visitors in empty units, cockroach infestations and a lack of working smoke alarms or hot water in some units.

An on-site manager at the time acknowledged some problems that were the fault of management, but also said that tenants had caused difficulties and had violated lease provisions concerning animals on the premises, failing to report items that needed to be repaired or causing damage in their units.

After all tenants left by demand of the city by Jan. 28, the fence around the perimeter of the property was erected. But on Wednesday morning, two openings in the fence near the alley could be seen.

The Roswell Police Department communication log indicates that officers have been to the property at least five different times in March and April regarding criminal trespasses. In two of the incidents, reports were filed.

On March 12, a 34-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man, both of Roswell, were found in a unit and charged with criminal trespass, to which they pleaded no contest, which has the effect of a guilty plea.

On Monday afternoon, a police officer was called by a Roswell resident who said he saw two people leaving the laundry room. According to the officer’s statement, he found evidence of people having been in the room at some point.

Edmisten and Citizen Bank of Clovis are currently engaged in a lawsuit over the property, with the bank alleging at the time of filing in May 2018 that Edmisten owed the bank $1.47 million for a loan on the property and that payments had not been made since December 2017. The bank also sued over a Ruidoso office building property, claiming that the alleged default on the Roswell property made the loan on the Ruidoso property due in full, a claim Edmisten, through his lawyer, denied in an answer to that civil action.

Chaves County property records also indicate that the property taxes for the apartment complex are delinquent for 2017 and 2018. According to a manager at the Chaves County Treasurer’s Office, the $57,200 in taxes must be paid by the end of June or the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Property Tax Division has the right to auction the property.

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