Tenants mixed on security needs
Some residents of the Aspen Country Inn, still reeling from the attempted arson of their apartments early this week and the suicide of the man responsible, advocated beefed-up security for their complex during a meeting with housing officials Tuesday night. Others are satisfied with existing security at the complex, where local senior citizens have first dibs when rental units are available there.There was little agreement on what, if anything, should be done in the wake of this week’s unsettling events, according to Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.”That doesn’t surprise me at this early stage,” he said. “They need time to think.”Residents in the 40-unit complex evacuated their apartments at about 3:30 a.m. Monday when fire alarms went off. Authorities have concluded tenant Robert “Bill” Seawell, who was facing eviction, tried to burn the complex down before taking his own life. He lit several fires and disconnected an outside natural gas line, according to police. Heat-activated sprinklers quickly doused the fires.After Monday’s events, some tenants said they fear for their safety at the complex located off Highway 82 just downvalley from the Maroon Creek bridge.One former tenant had been charged with dealing drugs from the complex before he died about a year ago; some residents alleged similar activity was taking place at Seawell’s apartment.”People are scared and they’re angry,” said Maureen Dobson, director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, which owns and manages the complex.”As we all know, the tenants definitely have concerns about security,” she said. “The staff is going to try to address them, we’re just going to need some time to formulate a proposal to bring forward to the [housing] board and possibly the city and county.”Security measures – from locking the outside doors that access interior corridors to security cameras or a resident manager – all got a mention at Tuesday’s meeting, but there was little consensus on what, if anything, is needed, Sadler said.The Aspen Country Inn had a resident manager at one point, but his successors have not resided at the complex.Whatever is done could cost the tenants money. The conversion of the Aspen Country Inn from a motel into a housing complex was financed through federal tax credits and the complex is supposed to pay its own way, according to Sadler. It isn’t subsidized by local government.”Security cameras, nighttime managers – that all comes at a price,” he said.Some tenants said they don’t believe any additional security is necessary. Residents already keep an eye on the place, they said.”I don’t feel unsafe at all,” said Linelle, a tenant who goes by the single moniker.”They guy who was the problem lived in the building. What good would more security do?” said one elderly resident who asked not to be identified.”You’ve got a lock on your door that works. Lock it,” she advised.Some tenants accused police of being unresponsive to their suspicions about Seawell. The police have declined to comment, but Brian Nardone, former property manager at the Aspen Country Inn, said in a letter to the editor that authorities tried to catch Seawell engaging in illegal activity without success.”They went so far as to set up a night sting from my office, which was adjacent to Mr. Seawell’s apartment,” Nardone wrote.Seawell had a criminal record, according to Aspen police Sgt. Steve Smith, and this week’s events have generated calls for criminal background checks for tenants there.”That’s definitely one of the common questions I’m getting – why don’t we do criminal background checks,” Dobson said. “It warrants some researching, for sure.” Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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