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Morris Heights apartment tenants are sick of neglected repairs

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Posted: August 23, 2007 6:22 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    Four tenants at the Morris Heights are tired of needed repairs not getting done and they say they're not going to take it any more.
    They claim that the management company has neglected to maintain the Statesboro property adequately and has put off needed repairs to the inside of many apartments. The HUD-backed complex is located on Morris Street, west of the courthouse.
    Marilyn Stewart, one of the tenants, said some of the repairs have been needed for two years.
    "I've written letters all over the place," Stewart said. "The situation around here is deplorable."
    In fact, she has written to Summit Asset Management, the company that operates the complex, and Georgia HAP Administrators, which handles inspections in Georgia for Section 8 – lower income – housing. Stewart said she even sent a letter to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonso Jackson, in Washington.
    When none of those avenues was fruitful, another tenant, Patricia Wiggins, decided to call the Statesboro city marshall.
    "I wanted to make sure that the tenants of this complex were not taken advantage of," said Wiggins.
    Kara Lundy, Statesboro's city marshall visited the site in late July and sent a letter to Summit Asset Management. The letter stated: "My attention has been brought to an issue concerning holes in the ceilings of several bathrooms, electrical problems, rusted air vents, plumbing problems and the replacing of floor tiles."
    An inspection by the Herald of five apartments confirmed Lundy's findings. The floors were seen to have been poorly repaired. Holes were obvious in some floors, walls and ceilings. In a couple instances, plywood was used to cover a larger hole on the ceiling, behind a toilet and in a kitchen.
    Morris Heights apartments are operated by Summit Asset Management which is located in Montgomery, Alabama. Repeated attempts to contact local and corporate management were unsuccessful.    
    The letter also stated the problems have existed for months – some even more than a year.
    In addition to the repair issues, many of the apartments have inadequate fire protection. Some have missing or removed fire extinguishers as well as missing smoke detectors. One tenant said the extinguishers were "removed two years ago."
    According to Ronnie Shaw, Statesboro fire marshall, there are minimum state requirements for multi-family dwellings. The state requires every apartment to have at least one fire extinguisher as well as a smoke detector in the hallway, the common room and each bedroom.
    A local contractor working at the complex, who asked not to be identified, said they were contacted in July about doing some repairs, but was not able to do the work due to a full calendar. They also stated that Summit is good about paying their bills on time.
    Former maintenance supervisor Ed Miller said, "There's a situation where the budget is not adequate to take care of the property."
    When asked if the management failed to provide him with enough money to fix things, Miller said, "That's exactly right"
    "They have 60 apartments over there and they had a budget of $60 for a whole month of plumbing repairs," he said. "I'd use that up in about a week and then they didn't want to buy anything else. When I'd go in there and say I'd need to fix this, they'd say 'Oh no. That will affect my bonus.'"
    Miller, who worked at Morris for six months in 2006, said he was told that it was the policy of the management company to give bonuses to property managers who stayed within budget.
    "They got everybody getting bonuses but nobody cares about the people," said Miller. "I told them in six months you're going to have a run-down property. If you don't spend enough money, it steadily goes downhill."
    Both Stewart and Wiggins are in the middle of the eviction process which, they said, was a result of reporting the violations and personal conflicts with the former manager.
    Former manager Candace Jones resigned from Summit Aug. 10 and could not be reached for comment.

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