By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — Pending the outcome of final inspections, Arbor Village Apartments may begin reopening in the next couple of weeks.
That was the word Friday from Bryan Manning, managing partner of the investment group that owns the apartment complex, which city officials closed last December after Vectren Energy inspectors discovered gas leaks in all five buildings.
“If all that goes well, we will have a green light to start reopening the property,” he said, adding that the 96-unit complex will likely open slowly, one building at a time.
Manning said his company has spent between $175,000 and $200,000 making repairs. Most of the money has been spent replacing gas lines to boilers that supplied heat for the buildings.
Those gas lines were buried in concrete when the complex was constructed, a building practice that has since been discontinued.
Although Vectren officials at the time said the leaks were not major, they could have led to more serious problems if not addressed, which is why the utility decided to shut off the gas.
And there was a heightened sense of concern because the leaks were detected just weeks after a massive natural gas explosion damaged or destroyed dozens of homes in Greenwood and killed two people. Three people are now awaiting trial for intentionally causing that explosion to collect insurance money.
“I’m not suggesting it was an overreaction,” Manning said of the decision to order the property vacated, “but it was bad luck.”
And performing the repairs took longer and was more costly than he anticipated they would be.
Caught between city officials and Arbor Village owners were tenants who found themselves suddenly displaced on a cold late fall night scrambling scrambling to find new housing on short notice.
After the evacuation, former tenants expressed anger at the owners for allowing problems to fester, cutting corners on maintenance and not communicating well.
One group of five former tenants represented by Anderson attorney Mark Dudley has already won judgments against Arbor Village totaling about $11,654 to cover expenses related to their forced move. Dudley said Friday that Arbor Village has not yet paid that money to his clients.
Another group of 15 tenants has filed a lawsuit in Madison County Circuit Court 1. A damages hearing has been scheduled for early August.
One of that group of tenants, Barbara Currie, moved to the nearby University Square apartments. She said it isn’t clear how much of an award they might get.
“We aren’t trying to get rich,” she said. “We’re just trying to get compensation for what we’re out.”
Manning acknowledged the company hasn’t yet paid those damage awards but is committed to doing the right thing.
“I know people are upset and if were them I would be too,” Manning said. “When we have the (financial) situation stabilized, we can start to address those issues.”
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