RealAmerica hopes to get some tenants back in Basalt apartments within days
After a chaotic Wednesday filled with uncertainty about when her firm’s apartment complex in Basalt could reopen, RealAmerica President and CEO Ronda Weybright felt relief and exhaustion Thursday.
A RealAmerica team, along with contractor Excel Fire Protection, made significant progress getting the Roaring Fork Apartments cleaned up after a water main pipe ruptured and collapsed from the first-floor ceiling on Tuesday.
The 56-unit complex is located at 111 Emma Road, just off Highway 82. The affordable-housing project opened in June.
Excel had removed 168 linear feet of pipe from the floor by 3 p.m. Thursday and was making arrangements to rehang replacement pipe for the fire-suppression system, Weybright said while leading an Aspen Times reporter on a tour of the building. RealAmerica will work closely with the fire marshal to make sure the system is properly installed, she said.
A RealAmerica crew had removed debris that fell in the hallway and lobby when the pipe collapsed. Some flooring also had to be removed. The first floor was a disaster site Tuesday. By Thursday, it looked more like an incomplete construction site.
The best news, Weybright said, is all utilities were restored to the second, third and fourth stories. She anticipates tenants in those apartments will be able to return within days. Her team purchased battery-operated smoke detectors that will be installed in every unit. A security guard also will patrol the premises to ensure safety until the fire- suppression system is operable again.
“I just want to get the tenants back in safely,” Weybright said.
It may take longer to reoccupy the first-floor apartments because of the water damage. Flooring needs to be replaced and approximately the lower 24 inches of sheetrock must be removed and reinstalled, Weybright said.
“I am thinking it will take a month at most,” she said.
The first-floor office has relocated to the second-story fitness center.
Most tenants have been able to live with friends and family, though RealAmerica determined after meeting with tenants Wednesday night that residents of five units will need help finding housing until their units are restored.
Weybright said she didn’t know the financial implications of the incident yet. She pushed a broom and helped clear debris Thursday rather than punch numbers into a calculator. The insurance companies will figure out who pays for what, she said. Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said Wednesday he estimated the damage “in the millions of dollars.”
The experience, while nerve-wracking, also served to bring together the tenants, RealAmerica officials and the broader community that chipped in to help.
“At the end of the day, we’ll get this back together again,” Weybright said.
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The crises between January 2009 and Tuesday, when he stepped down from the Pitkin County board, have bookended a political career that Newman said he thinks lived up to the slogan on the yard sign from his first campaign he still keeps in his garage: “Preserve, Conserve, Collaborate.”