Amid long renovation, Glenwood’s Manors residents say they must live in unsafe conditions
While the two Glenwood Manors apartment buildings have been undergoing a major renovation, many residents say they’ve been forced to move back into dangerous conditions while construction is far from finished.
At the same time, many subcontractors who worked on the first building have been picketing the project, saying that they’ve gone weeks without pay and that the project has been mismanaged.
The $4 million renovation started with Manor I and is now on Manor II. Tenants of both buildings, many of whom are elderly and/or have disabilities, are covered by federal Section 8 housing subsidies.
Several residents have contacted the Post Independent complaining of construction material strewn through hallways and blocking stairwells, drywall dust thick in the air and covering their belongings, extensive property damage and theft, and smell of paint and chemicals permeating the air.
The property managers said they haven’t been told of injuries, would visit the buildings soon and would improve communication with residents.
“Obviously we don’t want these concerns to be ongoing or for them to be our reputation,” said Jennifer Cloud, development director for the Denver-based Steele Properties, the buildings’ owner.
A city building official said visits had turned up no violations.
Residents were moved to hotels during part of the remodeling. Residents moved back into Manor I in mid-December after about a month away. Work is in progress now on Manor II, with residents recently moving back in.
Fixing the elevators were the big projects to be completed while residents were out. However, many Manor II residents said that the elevator broke down three times last Thursday, at least once trapping and panicking a woman who needed access to an oxygen tank.
Manor II residents say they’re now required to stay out of their apartments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but there isn’t nearly enough room for them in the building’s lobby.
Dawn Filip, a Manor I resident, said she moved back in just before Christmas to find extensive property damage to her furniture, razor blades and a tub of glue and chemical containers left open in the hallways. Her toilet, with water still in the bowl, had been removed and left in the bathtub over Christmas.
Photos taken by Debbie Newland, another resident of Manor I, show debris covering the hallways and blocking the stairwells.
Some, including Filip and Newland, suffer from respiratory ailments that they feared were being inflamed by dust in the air.
Some Manor II residents complained of going days without heat.
One woman in Manor II, who requested that her name be withheld out of fear of retaliation, said the smells from paint and chemical fumes and the noise from construction work kept her awake at night, the work often continuing until 1 or 2 a.m.
She still had large holes in her walls with exposed piping and wiring. When she moved in, her refrigerator wasn’t working and her kitchen cabinets hadn’t been reinstalled. Some elderly residents had handles in their bathrooms that had been installed incorrectly, making them fearful they would fall. The walls lining the showers were left unsealed, prompting fears of creating mold if they were used.
In short, the work was far from finished.
All of the residents who talked to the Post Independent said they feared they would be thrown out for speaking up about the conditions. Some asked that their names be withheld, saying they would be homeless if they were evicted. All of them said there were many more disgruntled residents who were too afraid to speak.
Filip and Newland said they both went to the hospital after being injured tripping over material piled in the buildings.
One 96-year-old woman with a respiratory illness was trying to find a ride to the doctor on Friday, believing she had pneumonia that developed from the dust in the building.
Gail Danielson, 74, who lives in Manor II, broke her hip a couple of years ago. While she was moved out for the remodeling, her bed frame was broken. Now the thin, frail woman has only a mattress, and she fears she wouldn’t be able to get back up from if she lay down. So she sleeps each night on a couch. Others said they were sleeping on their floors.
Rick Fout, Glenwood Springs building official, said about 95 percent of the work at the Manors doesn’t require building permits, and therefore certificates of occupancy aren’t required to move people back in.
Fout said that even so, his department has done numerous inspections of the buildings after hearing concerns from residents. And while his inspectors have worked with the contractor to tighten up the operation, the project checks out.
He equated the project to a family having to deal with clutter and dust while their home is being remodeled. “That’s what’s happening over there; it’s people living around a minor remodel. It’s totally kosher.”
Upon learning that this rehabilitation has been “more challenging than normal,” Cloud, with Steele Properties, said she and the Monroe Group’s director of operations would visit the site soon. Monroe Group manages the Manors.
“We take every concern from residents and their family and friends seriously and want to make this process as least impactful as possible,” said Cloud. “We recognize this is a disruption and are grateful for the residents’ patience.
“Understand that this is not day-to-day life for our residents,” she said. “At the end of the day, this is a project to improve their homes.”
Cloud said she had not heard of complaints of injury or property damage or theft, and she was looking into improving the company’s communication with residents. The company wants to “investigate any claims of anything unsafe or uninhabitable; we take that seriously,” she said.
“We first and foremost need residents to come to us directly,” said Cloud, who said there aren’t any formal claims from residents to her knowledge.
The company has set up a dedicated phone line for Manor residents and friends and family, at 720-215-3223.
Steele and the Monroe Group do rehabilitation projects such as this at properties across the country, and typically residents aren’t moved out at all, said Cloud.
In this case, residents were moved out only while work on the elevators was being completed, as they couldn’t have mobility-limited seniors living without an elevator.
Manor II still has a fair amount of work left to be done, and may not be completed until early summer.
Cloud said the company is considering moving residents of Manor II back into hotels, given how long the remodeling is expected to continue.
On a different issue, many of the subcontractors who worked on the Manor I remodel say the job was mismanaged and they still haven’t been paid for the work.
Steele and Monroe hired the Florida-based ZMG Construction as the general contractor, which in turn hired LJ Construction, from Nevada, as the subcontractor.
Steele and Monroe, ZMG and many subcontractors hired by LJ said Monday that the buck stopped with LJ Construction, whose owner did not respond to a request for comment from the Post Independent.
Lou McCollor, who was a co-owner of LJ Construction until recently, said he was terminated from the company midway through this project, though he wouldn’t discuss why.
McCollor said all the subcontractors were getting paid while he was on the project, and he denied that his termination was connected to the missed payments.
John Gonzales, a Glenwood Springs painter, said he is still owed $14,000, and he has workers on the verge of losing their apartments if he can’t pay them.
Some 23 to 30 workers have not been paid, said Billy Anastasio, who worked on the floors in Manor I.
ZMG’s executive vice president, Dee Paonessa, said Monday that her company was writing checks out of its own pocket and back charging LJ Construction to cover the other subcontractors. She anticipated they would all be paid this week.
“I’m sure we can look back and say this project has not run as smoothly has we would hope and as our reputation calls for,” Cloud said.
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