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Officials condemn 10 College Park apartments

Clayton County Code Enforcement officers have condemned 10 units in a College Park apartment complex, and more may face a similar fate as inspections continue, according to a spokesman for the Clayton County Fire Department, on Wednesday.

Fire department spokesman, Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, said officers began looking into the living conditions at building "P" in the Harbour Towne apartment complex after a 3-year-old girl fell through the floor in her family's unit on Saturday. The complex is located at 5420 Riverdale Road, in College Park.

A building inspector was called in to do a more thorough evaluation of the building, Merkison said, and a check of each unit, on Monday, found extensive problems, Merkison said. Out of the 20 units in the building, Merkison said, 11 were cited for code violations, and 10 of them were deemed so dangerous, there was a possibility of structural collapse.

Only half of the units had people living in them, according to a Clayton County Police Department news release.

"There were multiple structural issues that made the units unsafe to live in," Merkison said. "Some of it was due to rotting and termites. There was also large amounts of mold found in some of the units. There was a boiler in one unit that had been on fire at some point, so it was not safe anymore ... Code requires every apartment [to have] hot, running water, and some of the units did not have that, so they were condemned."

Merkison said inspections of units are expected to resume, either today, or on Friday, as code enforcement officers go through each building in the complex.

He also said code enforcement officers met with Clayton County Fire Chief Alex Cohilas –– also the county's interim chief of staff, and interim director of community development –– on Wednesday morning to brief him on the situation.

Cohilas will, in turn, brief members of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners on conditions at the complex, Merkison said.

The conditions of several units came to the attention of code enforcement officers after a toddler fell through the floor, according to Merkison. The child had been in the bathroom of her family's apartment, he said, which is in building "P," when the floor gave way, and she fell 11 feet into the crawl space underneath.

"There were obvious signs of rot in the sub-flooring underneath the bathroom floor," Merkison said.

According to a police department news release, family members lowered bed sheets to the child, and used them to pull the youngster back up through the hole in the floor, before a fire truck arrived on the scene. The unit the family lived in was among those condemned by code enforcement officers, Merkison said.

The family has been relocated to another apartment in the same building, he said. Whether residents of other condemned units can move to safer units is a matter to be dealt with between residents and the complex's owner, Robert W. Monday, Merkison said.

According to the police department's news release, Monday had initially pledged to relocate affected tenants to other units, but later reneged on that promise.

Calls to the apartment complex's office for comment were not returned on Wednesday.

The code enforcement officers are working with managers of the complex to set up a schedule for further inspections, according to Merkison. The fate of building "P" remains uncertain, he said.

"It's possible the building will have to be torn down, but that's up to the management of the apartment complex," he said. "They will have to hire a structural engineer and have him come out and look at the building to decide: ‘Can it be repaired?' or ‘Does it have to come down?'"