Flooding forces residents to leave Washington apartment

May 16, 2014
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Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter
Washington fire Chief Linn Brookman, right, speaks to two firefighters while supervising residents as they gather their belongings from the flooded apartment building on Jefferson Avenue. Order a Print
Image description
Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter
Large ceiling tiles hang from the building’s second-floor vestibule after rain water leaked in from the roof late Thursday night. Order a Print

Residents forced out of their Washington apartment building by a leaking roof late Thursday blamed dilapidated conditions inside the building on an absentee landlord.

“It was raining harder in that building than it was outside,” resident Nicole Waites said of the former Clark School building converted into an apartment complex. “(The landlord) knew it was going to happen, and he got out before it did.”

Waites said residents had to leave the building after water began cascading from the roof into some of their apartment units and lobby areas about 11:30 p.m. Thursday during heavy rains. Now, she and about 30 other people are forced to find new places to live after the city’s fire department deemed the three-story building at 1090 Jefferson Ave. uninhabitable and ordered everyone to gather their belonging and leave by 4 p.m. Friday.

Residents complained leaks in the roof weren’t repaired, but instead tarpaulins and buckets were placed in the attic in an attempt to prevent flooding. Large ceiling tiles in the second floor’s vestibule could be seen falling down above where standing water covered the hardwood floors.

Washington fire Chief Linn Brookman said there were numerous leaks found in the roof, causing water to pour into apartment units, open areas and electrical receptacles.

“It’s neglected. It’s being shut down,” Brookman said. “We need to work with the owners for them to do work on it and rehabilitate it.”

County property records show the building was purchased by Alec B. Cirigliano for $750,000 in 2003. Cirigliano said by telephone Friday he was part of an investment group that bought the property, but he has not been involved with it since 2012. County tax officials said Wells Fargo is in the initial stages of foreclosing on the property.

Waites said the absence of their landlord during the situation has irked the residents. She said the apartment’s manager came earlier this week to collect rent payments, but the tenants were unable to reach him by phone Friday.

Waites, 28, had been a resident in the apartment for the past two years and complained of persistent electrical problems and other issues that plagued the building. She planned to speak to American Red Cross workers stationed in the parking lot about finding temporary housing for her and her three children.

“I’m trying to get out of here because I don’t think it’s suitable for kids,” she said.

After securing the building, Brookman said firefighters were also trying to assist the residents in any way possible.

“We’re doing everything we can do to help them find a place,” Brookman said. “A lot of these people have nowhere to go.”

He said the city did not have any immediate plans to condemn the property, which came as welcome news to Waites despite the situation. She grew up in the apartment building before moving away when she was 14, only to return two years ago.

She hopes a new developer will be able to fix the problems and open it again in the future for tenants.

“I hope they can refurbish and rehab it,” she said. “It’s a landmark.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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