By Linda Looney-Bond
Approximately 40 families had to find housing quickly, after Clayton County authorities condemned an entire apartment complex on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro.
The Clayton County Police Code Enforcement Division issued a notice of condemnation Thursday at the Legacy on Tara apartments, requiring all residents to vacate the property immediately, according to county records.
County officials cited unsafe electrical wiring, fire hazards, severe water damage, and severe structural damage among the reasons for the condemnation of the 12 buildings on the property, located at 6754 Tara Blvd.
In a Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Life Safety Inspection report dated July 8, an inspector said, "This entire apartment complex is uninhabitable and provides less than adequate state and national required fire protection in all the buildings. Every person who lives in this complex is in serious risk of life and limb."
"The safety issue is the primary concern of the county," said Jamie Carlington, public relations officer for the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.
She said the county, along with community activists, assisted several residents in finding temporary shelter Thursday night, and then more permanent housing the following day.
"Everyone who could not find a place [to live] has been placed," Carlington said on Friday.
"They slept, we fed them, they watched TV," said Rosalind Sconiers, the founder of Sconiers Homeless Preventive Organization, which assisted residents with temporary housing at a shelter on Ga. Highway 138 in Riverdale.
Friday afternoon, Queen Thompson, 53, returned to the complex to move a few more items from her condemned apartment.
"My apartment is pretty decent. I didn't have a smoke detector, a fire extinguisher, and my windows wouldn't lock, but I was OK with it because they were on a work order to be fixed," said Thompson, who lived in a second-floor apartment.
Gwen Brewer, the leasing manager at Legacy on Tara, said she also lived on the property. "I'm not only unemployed, but I'm homeless," said Brewer. "The people that had problems in their apartments, their issues were not unlivable. They had work orders for repairs," she said.
"I think if it [the complex] was unlivable, I would have known, and I would have transferred them to another apartment," Brewer said.
The property's owner, Jana Collins, lives in Los Angeles, Calif., but said she has visited the property on a several occasions.
"Every city in the United States, if you have code violations, they give you time to rectify it," Collins said in a phone interview on Friday. "They didn't give me time."
Carlington said that after receiving complaints from residents about conditions at the complex, county inspectors visited the property about a month ago. She said inspectors gave the property managers a warning regarding the condition of the property, then checked back earlier this week.
"Our task force went out there a few days ago. That's when they noted that the same things were not fixed," Carlington said.
"This is a case of an out-of-state slum lord," she said.
Collins said Friday that she has owned the property for about two years, but that she is currently trying to sell it.
Carlington said the county would seek to demolish the property.