By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The potential fire hazard at Arbor Village Apartments has prompted the mayor and city officials to condemn the complex and issue an order to vacate, Building Commissioner Frank Owens said Wednesday night.
The property, which was briefly evacuated and investigated for a gas leak Tuesday night, was declared uninhabitable by Mayor Kevin Smith, Owens and Emergency Management teams, Owens said. The tenants have a day to evacuate, then the power will be shut off.
Officials from Vectren Energy, the gas provider for the complex, arrived Tuesday and found leaks in three of the five buildings. Gas was shut off to the affected units and tenants were given the option to be housed elsewhere or stay in their apartments without gas. Arbor Village Owner Tom Stanley offered tenants space heaters for the night.
Vectren returned Wednesday morning and found leaks in all five buildings, so Owens made the decision to have the entire complex evacuated until the issue is resolved.
“My concern was that with the heat from the space heaters and the age of the wiring in these apartments, we could have had a fire,” Owens said. “The electrical inspector felt it was unsafe. The mayor and I felt it was in everyone’s best interest to evacuate. I couldn’t live with the chance that anyone here would be hurt.”
Owens said the Church Upon the Rock at 303 E. 29th St. was designated as the shelter for the 29 tenants. Twelve required transportation assistance. He said he didn’t have an answer on a long-term housing solution if the leaks weren’t repaired soon.
“Unfortunately it’s all in the owner’s hands now,” Owens said.
This is the second gas leak incident at Arbor Village in a month. Natural gas is odorless, but a scent is usually added so it’s detectable.
Stanley said he was fed up with the way the city dealt with the situation and said that Vectren officials are “paranoid” because of the recent explosion on the south side of Indianapolis.
“I’m done with (the city of Anderson),” Stanley said. “They’re not allowing the proper time for us to do our job. They’re demanding things that aren’t realistic.”
Stanley said none of the tenants want to leave, and because the gas is off there is no danger to the complex.
Stanley purchased the complex about three years ago and said it was in total disrepair. He said he has renovated almost everything and invested nearly $1 million in the property, and that the gas pipe issue is the only problem that remains.
“I want my tenants cared for, but moving them out of their homes for weeks isn’t the right way to care for them,” he said.
Tenants Tyler Walker, 24, and his fianceé Ashley Castor, 21, said they returned home from work and were told they had 30 minutes to get what they needed. The couple has a 1-year-old son.
The two were living in a different building two weeks ago when the first incident happened. They said they were forced to evacuate and move to a different building in the complex, and are now being inconvenienced again.
“I’d say the city is handling it as well as they can, but the complex owner is not filling us in on anything,” Walker said. “We’re getting no straightforward answers. They turned our gas off this morning (Wednesday) without letting us know. We paid rent this week along with a lot of other tenants, and I think it’s wrong that they won’t give it back.”
Dave Jones, 64 and a tenant, said he was displeased with how the city and ownership handled the situation. He said he likes living in Arbor Village, but being forced to leave without a chance to retrieve essentials was unacceptable.
“You should be able to come back here during the day and have police around so you can get some stuff if you need to,” Jones said. “They’re talking about putting people up in a shelter, but I don’t have any place to go after work.”
Jones also said the gas leak should have been dealt with immediately.
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