Donations requestedLandlord deciding how to proceed with building
Sitting in a local motel lobby with several of her friends whom she formerly lived with at Goncho Apartments, Cassondra Davis slipped on a pair of shoes that had been given to her by members of the local Salvation Army and the Washington Area Ministerial Association.
After having to leave many of her belongings at Goncho Apartments yesterday morning when the Washington County Police ordered the building evacuated, the pair of shoes and other everyday items such as a toothbrush, a warm coat, or something to eat were all special to her.
“They fit,” she beamed. “They are girls’ shoes and they fit.”
As some items were being given out, other Salvation Army members moved through the group to find out what sizes were needed. When the six families who stayed in the motel last night left their apartments, they had been ordered to leave their belongings behind.
On Wednesday night, the Washington Police Department ordered Goncho Apartments to be vacated until unacceptable levels of methamphetamine that had been found in the building were abated. A press release said that because of the high level of meth and numerous fire and safety code violations “the building is being deemed dangerous and unsafe to occupy at this time.” The building was secured at 10 a.m. Thursday, and anyone found inside will be charged with trespass.
After getting many of the tenants — who had nowhere to go after being given the notice to evacuate the building Wednesday evening — through the first 24 hours, members of the Salvation Army and the Ministerial Association are now turning attention to a more sustained place for them to live.
The Rev. Jim Cluney, and HACAP director RenElla Crawford both hope area landlords with vacant apartments will come forward to offer a place for the displaced tenants to live. The association is also helping find some clothing. Crawford said all had applied for Section 8 government funding to help with the cost of rent. Anyone with empty places where the tenants can stay or who can offer financial help are asked to call HACAP at 653-7275 or Cluney at 653-1735. Donations of furniture can be made at Washington Eye Care, but donors are asked to call in advance at 653-4558 or Norman Brooks at 430-4979.
Donations of items can be made at Washington Baptist Church. Cluney also said that because the people have no place to put clothing, anyone wishing to donate suitcases or backpacks would be welcome.
In Wellman today, Jarod Miller, owner of Goncho Apartments, was working to determine what the future of the building would be. He said that he isn’t going to know what options are available until after meeting with his insurance company. He said he has already met with a meth abatement firm.
Miller said that he found out that the building would have to be evacuated shortly before the tenants found out. He said that several tenants had called to ask him about lodging, but that he simply did not have any apartments or anywhere else to house them.
“We probably won’t just shut down,” Miller said. “I find it unlikely we would do that. We have a lot of people who have lived there for a long time.”
Miller said that he purchased the building in 2006, saying he had been a 20-something land investor. He said that the cash flow of the building had been good and “I quickly figured out why.” He said the building is 120 years old and “has history.” While in the beginning he said there had been some arrests for drugs, he had worked to remove the element that use drugs. Miller said there have been no major problems in the building in three or four years.
He explained that a former tenant was related to Ron Boileau and had allowed him to stay in his apartment during the summer. Miller said he had never met Boileau and had no lease with him. Boileau was one of three people arrested for manufacturing meth on Dec. 8 and Miller said that Boileau had given the police the address of Goncho Apartments as his residence. The apartment rented to Boileau’s nephew was the apartment that had tested positive for meth. Boileau was later found dead in the Washington County Jail. Foul play is not suspected.
He said the police had done tests and when the results of the last tests had been done, the decision was made to clear the building.
“It seemed a little harsh to me,” he said.
Miller said that the greatest concentration of meth is in the room Boileau used. He also said that he believes he will have to replace the ceilings, carpeting and do a thorough cleaning. He does not know yet how much it will cost to abate the building.
“The police told me the meth is the reason that the building was closed,” he said.
Calling improvement an “ongoing process,” Miller also said over the six years he has owned the building, he has worked with the city to bring it up to code. He said the process is not complete. He said that since he has owned the building, the wiring and plumbing systems had been greatly updated. He also commented that remodeling an apartment is difficult with a tenant in it.
Miller said he hopes to find a solution quickly. With no rent money coming in, he said that the building would quickly become more of a liability than an asset.
“I feel sorry for the tenants,” he said. “There are people who have lived there 15 or 20 years. I don’t know where they will go.”