New Braunfels Herald Zeitung, May 14, 2000, Page 9

New Braunfels Herald Zeitung

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Location: New Braunfels, Texas

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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - May 14, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Sunday, May 14, 2000 — Herald-Zeitung — Page 9AROSEDALE/From 1A grandson and a family friend, said she liked the apartment and had no complaints. And, she said she did not understand why the city was making her move out in less than three weeks. On May I, the city’s Building Standards Commission ordered the more than 150 residents in the Rosedale complex to vacate in 30 days because city inspectors found at least 150 violations of building, fire, health and safety codes during an inspection on April 7. The Rosedale Apartments are on Rosedale Avenue off W. San Antonio Street. They originally were built as Army barracks in the late 1940s or 1950s. The Rosedale and South Krueger complex have 42 units. Among the violations, inspectors reported no two-way firewalls separated the apartments, no smoke detectors were found and improper electrical wiring was evident in all the units. “lf one unit catches on fire, then both units catch on fire,” City Attorney Floyd Akers said, referring to the absence of two-way firewalls. Inspectors also said most apartments had serious structural problems, including rotted walls, holes in floors, collapsing roofs, sagging floors and leaky plumbing in many units. Akers said many units had water heaters within the living areas that were improperly vented. And, none of the units had insulation, city officials said. “If the water heaters exploded, they could kill the occupants of the apartment,” Akers said. But, Lopez said her apartment was OK. < And one woman, who is not a legal U.S. resident, said conditions at the apartment complex were significantly better than where she lived before. “The conditions here are still nowhere like Mexico,” she said. “Ifs a lot better off here. I was suffering over there.” Lopez said if she had any problems with her apartment, she made the repairs herself rattier than calling the apartment manager. She is reimbursed for the parts she buys, but she does all the labor herself. Lopez said if others who lived at the Rosedale Apartments did the same, the apartments would be in better shape. “People should take care of where they live,” she said. But, Akers said the apartments were unsafe regardless of how they looked in the inside. New Braunfels code compliance officer Cory Chilcutt said, “You don’t know what it looks like underneath the floor.” Akers said, “There are a lot of problems you can’t see. If you look at the foundation or look at the outside of the buildings, they’re just not very safe.” Terry Hikel, a building official for the city, said the foundations on the apartments posed the greatest danger. “The piers underneath are rotten. Some of the piers are sagging or leaning or pulling away from the concrete blocks,” he said. “No wiring in the building is to code. It’s all old wiring from when they built the army barracks. These were built back in the 1940s but the owner has to bring them up to code if they’re going to rent them. The electrical work is way out of shape.” And Hikel said the walls in many units were cracking and pulling away from the ceiling because the floors were sagging. If the city took the property owners to municipal court, they could owe up to $200,000 in criminal fines, Akers said. San Antonio resident Emmett Cater owns 21 units on Rosedale Avenue and six units on South Krueger Avenue. Cater, who inherited part of the Series■ TUESDAY — Residents say they can’t afford to live anywhere else in New Braunfels and need more time to move out■ WEDNESDAY — What are the city and the New Braunfels Housing Authority doing to help Rosedale residents find new homes? Rosedale Apartments two and a half years ago, said May I he was attempting to repair the properties but did not have enough experience with commercial properties to know how to proceed. Cater said so far he has spent $12,000 attempting to repair two units. “I am not an absent slum lord. I’m trying to do the right thing,” Cater said. Tom Newlin, who owns eight units in the middle of the complex, declined comment. But Hikel said some roof work had been done on the properties owned by Newlin. Hikel reported Newlin spent about $9,000 on repairs. During the building standards commission meeting, Cater said he needed more time to make repairs and some guidance from the city on how to proceed with repairs. “I’m just learning,” he said. The property manager, who asked not to be named, said, “They can be fixed up. But I can’t do it in 30 days.” But, several residents said they have complained about problems with their apartments long before now but repairs never were made. Maria Serrano, who lives in an PERI STONE-PALMQUIST/Herald-Zeitung Beer can and trash collect behind an abandoned apartment. apartment with her 5-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son, said she has had problems with holes in the ceilings and floors. When her daughter, Araceli, was 3 months old, part of the ceiling in one of the bedrooms fell on her, Maria said. Right now, Maria uses boards to cover up holes that open up to the ground underneath. In one bedroom wall, a large gap shows where the wall has pulled away from the ceiling. Maria, who has lived in the complex 11 years, said she complained about holes in the floor to the property manager. “The manager said we were walking on the floor wrong,” she said. “We tell them about it, but they don’t pay attention,” Maria said. “But he does come by when it’s rent time. I wish they would fix it. I would stay here if it got fixed.” Julian and Teresa Serrano, who live one unit down from Maria, have experienced similar problems. They have two daughters ages I and 7. In the kitchen, there is a large gap between the top of one wall and the ceiling because the floor is sagging. And, Teresa said rats get in through the open space. The wood underneath the sink has rotted from leaky pipes. Holes in the bathroom and bedrooms walls have been taped up with duct tape. And, the floors slope in several areas. Julian, Teresa and Maria said they were concerned about their childrens’ safety in the apartments. Hikel said he heard one report of a child falling through a hole in the floor. But, the apartment manager he did make repairs but residents don’t always report problems with their apartments. “People that live in them don’t take care of them,” he said. “They don’t report problems until the floor falls out from under them.” Patricia Meckler, who has lived at the Rosedale Apartments for four years, agreed. She said she had no problems getting repairs done. “The property manager always fixed everything I asked him to do. If I had a problem, he fixed it right away,” she said. Meckler said many of the residents did not speak English and the property manager doesn’t speak Spanish so they never communicated their problems to him. As of now, the future of the Rosedale Apartments has not been decided. The city and the New Braunels Housing Authority are working together to help find housing for residents who are eligible. Akers said if residents could not find housing after 30 days, the commission could decide to extend the deadline at its next meeting June 5. The property owners have 30 days to secure the structures, then the commission will re-evaluate the status of the complex. Cater said he would like to renovate the apartments. But, it could require a substantial amount of money to bring the complex into compliance with city code. The Comal Appraisal District estimated the current appraised value of each lot at $20,000 to $35,000. The property owner’s contractor estimated up to $40,000 per duplex would be needed to bring the complex into code compliance. (Staff Writer Peri Stone-Palmquist contributed to this report.)DELAY/From 1A SLEEP STORE FUTON GALLERY 1439 S Business 35 6255513 TARG* Beautiful iron Beds Floor Models POSTURE PREMIER iiij/i]    Plush CHAMPION UP TO 70% Queen set Twin ea pc OFF Pull ea pc ........*79 Queen set ....*199 King set ......*329 Twin ea pc ....*139 Pull ea pc ......*189 King set . .....*599 POSTURE PE OIC Pluoh or Firm Queen set ▼Win ea pc ..............*189 Full mix................*249 King nt................*799 Futon Clearance STARTING AT $149 with 8" Futon Mattress PREE FREE DELIVERY " BED FRAME with a minimum $400 purchase Handcrafted Solid wood Furniture UP TO OPP gotten calls from residents and neighbors who were concerned about conditions in the past. He said many residents living near the apartment complex were hard-working citizens who maintained their homes but were concerned about the physical condition of the apartments and the activities taking place there. “They wish they would do something about it,” he said. “It’s been like this since the 1970s.” Nadine Murdoch, director of the New Braunfels Housing Authority, said the Rosedale Apartments failed to meet standards for Section 8 assistance in 1979 and again in the 1980s. But, city manager Mike Shands said until recently it was difficult to make property owners comply with the codes. The city mostly would write up notices for environmental violations such as garbage or rubbish outside the property. Property owners of the Rosedale Apartments have violated codes before, mostly for environmental hazards, Shands said. “For complaints about trash outside or a container of oil, we gave them notice of the violation. Then, inspectors discovered when they gained entry a number of other violations that will be expensive to correct,” he said. “It was hard to get in until we had the code compliance officer because we couldn’t get warrants and we couldn’t prove reasonable cause,” he said. City council approved an ordinance in August 1998 establishing the building standards commission, but the group didn’t start meeting until June. Before, the only course of action was municipal court, City Attorney Floyd Akers said. The commission gives property owners due process, Akers said. “This is beyond what municipal court can do,” he said. And, the creation of a code compliance officer also has helped with enforcement, Shands said. “Now, we have the right to go and inspect, hold hearings, subpoena witnesses. The commission gave us the ability to enforce and regulate. We didn’t have all those tools available before,” he said. “We also are fortunate to have a city attorney (Floyd Akers) who is willing to aggressively pursue some of these violations and take the time to document the violations and convene the board. After the city has discovered a code violation, it will send out a notice to the property owner and allow the person 30 days to prepare for a hearing before the commission. At that hearing, the owner is required to submit proof of any work that might be required to comply with city codes and the amount of time required to perform that work. The commission decides, partly based On that testimony, whether to allow work on the property or to order its demolition at the expense of the property owner. City inspectors found 150 violations of building, fire, health and safety codes during an inspection of the Rosedale complex April 7. Among the biggest violations were major structural and electrical problems with most apartments, including rotted walls, holes in . “Its been like this since the 1970sr . Juan Luis Martinez, Mayor Pro Tem floors, collapsing roofs, sagging floors and leaky plumbing. Electrical wiring in all the apartments is not up to code, and there is no insulation or two-way firewalls in any of the units, city officials said. The property owners were ordered to secure the apartments in 30 days and to take care of immediately major health hazards, such as a pipe leaking raw sewage onto the ground. Besides the physical conditions of the apartments, criminal activity around the apartment complex also has been a big concern. From 1991 to 1998, numerous police calls to different units in the complex have been for serious vio- gather around two vacant apartments at night New Braunfels code compliance officer Cory Chilcutt said inspectors found evidence that kids entered the unsecured, abandoned apartments at night. A videotape of the abandoned units taken April 7 showed condom wrappers, empty beer cans and beer bottles inside the units. During a May I building standards commission meeting, commission members broached the sub ject of rebuilding the structure and getting Section 8 housing assistance to help finance it. But, Housing Authority Director Nadine Murdoch said even if the complex was rebuilt, it probably would not qualify for assistance because of the surrounding neighborhood/^ UD tries to build low-income housing in middle income neighborhoods,” she said. Akers said many structures in violation of health, safety and building codes tied up the commission. lations, including assault causing bodily injury, aggravated assault, theft, criminal mischief, burglary of motor vehicles and habitations, disorderly conduct, intoxicated pedestrians and terroristic threats. Several residents said young men gathered outside the units at night and drank. Akers said residents routinely had outdoor bonfires, which violates city code. One man who lives in the apartment complex said men would “We’re taxed,” he said. “There’s only so much we can do at a time. And, there’s a lot of structures like this. We go off complaints more than anything.” But, he acknowledged the Rosedale Apartments are specifically unsafe because of the structural problems. The commission has not yet decided the fate of the Rosedale Apartments. The commission will re-evaluate the status of the complex when it meets June 5. I BLOCK SOUTH Of    TAHO SHORTINO CtNTSR ) ;

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