Riled tenants request state to intervene Official, residents of Locust House to meet on complaints

'Halls are hot and humid'

More security, repairs urged

management defends its record

July 05, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Continuing problems with maintenance, security and air conditioning have prompted the tenants of a subsidized housing complex in Westminster to ask the state to intervene.

Carol Woodson, director of asset management with the Maryland Housing Fund, has agreed to meet with residents of Locust House and the building manager Tuesday.

"I am hoping we can get down to basics," she said. "It appears the primary issues are with maintenance and a security system."

Locust House has about 100 residents -- all elderly or disabled -- and about half belong to the tenants association, which is pushing for improvements to the 17-year-old building.

Among the requests, tenants want climate-controlled hallways in the seven-story building. Although each apartment unit is air-conditioned and equipped with a ceiling fan, hallways are stifling, residents said.

Locust House was constructed when the building code did not require air-conditioned hallways. Association members have been monitoring temperatures for about a month.

"There is no discernible air circulation, and the temperatures are commonly over 85 degrees," said Mike Melsheimer, association president.

Robert S. Udoff, president of the Hum-phrey Companies, a Silver Springs property management company that manages Locust House, has installed four ceiling fans on the seventh-floor hall to test how much relief they can provide.

"The hall temperatures are an issue," said Udoff. "If the fans work, each floor will be equipped with them."

Greg Keller, a building inspector for Carroll County, said he has dTC given Udoff until July 12 to see if the fans alleviate the situation. "The residents' complaint is justified," he said. "The halls are hot and humid."

Melsheimer has a copy of a certified letter he sent to Udoff last year, complaining about the heat in the hallways. He called Keller early this month.

In February, Melsheimer said he alerted management to a problem with the fire alarm system. Only after residents called the fire marshal's office was it corrected, he said.

"I can document that no one from management does anything of consequence without the residents having to go outside to agencies or political representatives to have them intervene," said Melsheimer.

"I asked [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] last week to review the maintenance files for every apartment in this building for the last five years. I am convinced that [management has] not done the things they said they have done."

Keller disagreed, saying that the company deals with problems on "a fairly quick basis."

Doris Clapsaddle, who moved to Locust House a year ago, said, "Any time there is a problem, it is taken care of immediately. This is a quiet, secure and incredibly clean place to live."

In response to residents' request for a better security system, Udoff is installing security cameras on all floors this week.

Residents use a card system to enter and leave the building. A 24-hour camera keeps a record of activity at the main entrance. Still, two wood tables recently were stolen from the lobby.

"No one is ever in danger," Udoff said. "We come under incredible scrutiny from several government agencies. You have City Hall across the street and the Police Department next door."

Udoff said he is at a loss to explain the conflict with tenants. He attributes the problem to a dissatisfied minority.

"This building provides decent quality housing to people in dire need of it," he said. "A few tenants are stirring up problems, which just aren't there. We handle maintenance problems within a day or to the best of our ability."

As for the association's criticisms, Udoff says he will gladly give tours of the facility.

"We are always doing improvements, replacing equipment and maintaining security, both for the building and the tenants," said Udoff. "Government agencies always evaluate us at 'satisfactory' to 'superior.' This project is open to inspection anytime."

He said he conducted a confidential survey of tenants in April and found the majority of the 75 who replied were satisfied with management of the building.

Melsheimer said he will bring up a list of concerns at the meeting. One is the reduction of the maintenance and cleaning staffs from full time to two or three days a week. Tenants also are paying cleaning crews for services that are part of their jobs, he said.

"They charge to clean outside windows and dust ceiling fans," he said.

Pub Date: 7/05/96

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