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Home for disabled shut down, violations cited

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

A joint task force of Clayton County's Fire and Emergency Services department, Police Code Enforcement division, and Community Development department has shut down a home for the mentally disabled, which authorities say had been operating without a license.

Five patients living in the home have been relocated, as the building has also been declared a safety hazard, according to fire and police department officials.

According to fire department Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, authorities responded to the two-story, four-bedroom home on Huntwood Lane in Riverdale around 2 p.m., on Friday. Authorities investigated the home after receiving a complaint from a neighbor, he said.

"We had gotten a complaint on Thursday about a personal care home that was being operated at the home," Merkison said. "When we did some verifying with the state ... it was determined that they did not have a license with the state or the county. Once we were there, we found they were missing sprinklers, fire alarms, smoke detectors, lighted exit signs, and emergency lighting that is required to be in those kind of facilities. It was an unlicensed and illegally run care facility, so we determined that those individuals needed to be relocated, until the proper safety measures were put in place, and the proprietors went out and got the proper licensing."

Merkison said the facility had been in operation for about six months. The seven people living in the home on Friday included the five patients, plus the two operators, who are a married couple, he said.

In addition to fire-safety and business-license violations, the home itself was cited for numerous code enforcement violations.

According to Clayton County Police Public Information Officer Lt. Tina Daniel, the home was cited for several interior structure problems, including: Broken tiles on the countertops; cracks in the walls; broken door frames inside, and outside, the home; no caulking around toilets and other bath fixtures, loose carpets and electrical outlets, roof problems, and an improperly installed water heater.

"They were actually putting people in harm's way," Daniel said.

Merkison said no criminal charges have been filed, and that authorities are not releasing the names of the patients or the couple running the establishment. He said four of the patients were taken to Southern Regional Medical Center for evaluation and assignment to new care facilities, and that one of the patients was retrieved by his mother.

According to Merkison, this is the second care home operating without a license in a year that the department has shut down. The other home was also in Riverdale, he said.