City to let housing complex stay dark

Tenants to be moved from Hollander Ridge now that power is out

October 02, 1999|By John B. O'Donnell and Tim Craig | John B. O'Donnell and Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Unwilling to spend $50,000 to $100,000 to restore electricity to buildings scheduled for demolition next spring, Baltimore officials struggled yesterday to relocate nine tenants who have been without power for a week or more at the Hollander Ridge public housing complex.

The 1,000-unit complex is scheduled for demolition in April to make way for a $51.5 million village for low-income senior citizens.

"We don't want to throw good money after bad when we're going to take this down," Zack Germroth, spokesman for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, said in explaining the reluctance to make electrical repairs.

He said the power failure -- unrelated to Hurricane Floyd or other weather problems -- occurred on Sept. 23 or 24, but tenants say it happened earlier.

Germroth could not explain precisely what happened, saying only that the breakdown involved feeders and transformers and that repairs would run $50,000 to $100,000. The problem is on public housing property and the authority is responsible for fixing it, not Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., he said.

As of yesterday afternoon, six of the nine families were scheduled to move by Wednesday. Two others are staying with friends. The ninth has chosen a new public housing home, but is awaiting the results of lead-testing on the unit.

At Hollander Ridge yesterday, Deborah Harding said her house on Jack Fischer Court lost power four weeks ago and that she has been wandering between relatives with her three children since then. She is due to move into the Somerset public housing development on Orleans Street today -- a move she will make reluctantly.

"They are giving me a two-bedroom for me and my three children," said Harding, whose four-bedroom duplex at Hollander Ridge is boarded up and overgrown with weeds and twisted vines. "One of my sons likes to keep his room clean, and he does not want to live with his messier brother."

Levette S. James said power in her Lil Jones Court home has been out since mid-September, and she and her daughter have been eating by candlelight. The family's pet frogs are dying because the electric-powered filter cannot clean the fish tank.

James said she lost more than $250 in spoiled food and is spending $80 a week on fast food and barbecue supplies. Other families have been grilling on James' patio and swapping stories of spoiled meat, candle safety and bureaucratic runarounds.

The nine tenants are the last at the low-rise single-family units at Hollander Ridge.

Germroth said they were still there because they had rejected housing authority efforts to move them out. "They had been given options six months ago," he said. "Many had turned down four options. Most of them are not actually living there. They had moved in with relatives and were just visiting."

Another 80 to 90 tenants remain in a high-rise for the elderly, which has power. The target for moving them out is Thanksgiving.

The housing authority announced in mid-1998 that it plans to build a 450-unit village for senior citizens on the Hollander Ridge site using federal and state funds.

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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