JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 30 Eureka Gardens units re-inspected by the city Thursday failed inspection, according to city code enforcement officials.
For the past month, the Westside subsidized housing complex has been in the spotlight after a News4Jax investigation prompted a sweep by city code inspectors that exposed hundreds of critical violations. The complex owner, the Rev. Richard Hamlet, founder of Global Ministries Foundation, had until Wednesday to fix the serious safety problems.
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were on the property Wednesday making sure the most dangerous problems were fixed. A separate inspection by fire marshals Wednesday found no violations.
But the city inspections Thursday found that 37 of 103 units scheduled for re-inspection were still not up to code. The complex owners will go before a special magistrate soon for a hearing about those units. Penalties are determined by city ordinances, but they could face hefty fines or liens.
Thirty-eight units passed inspection Thursday, and their cases were considered closed.
Another 28 units were not inspected because the tenant was either not home or refused access to inspectors.
The city also noted that 21 stairways failed inspection Thursday and were referred to a special magistrate.
According to HUD, if the stairwells weren't repaired by Wednesday, the apartments both upstairs and downstairs in that unit would be condemned.
There's no word on how quickly the units surrounding the bad stairwells might be affected.
One resident said Thursday that city inspectors came inside her unit, looked around for issues and documented what they found.
The complex's owners, Global Ministries Foundation, were required to have unsafe staircases and other critical issues repaired by Wednesday.
A lot of people at the complex still don't feel like enough is being done. They think the
management is just putting a Band-Aid on instead of fixing the problems.
"A lot of it is superficial but they are not getting to the root of the problem. Truthfully, they are not getting to the root of the problem," Tracy Grant, head of the Eureka Gardens tenant association, said. "Today they fixed the shower, finally fixed my shower after five years. Five years I have screamed, asked, begged, pleaded for them to come and fix my shower."
Residents say their health and safety are at risk and something needs to be done immediately.
“Mold... and it is just hot. These bricks are hot. We need some central air here. We need the government to reconstitute this place and build it right,” said Mona Lisa Arnold.
Arnold has lived at Eureka Gardens for nearly a decade. She said the living conditions are unacceptable.
“We need help over here. We need help. We need the government and all the people to help us. We can't breathe, we are breathing in mold,” said Arnold.
She said her air conditioning doesn't work right, her stairs are falling apart and mold is making her sick.
The list of problems in desperate need of attention includes:
- Propane/natural gas/methane gas detected
- Exposed wires/open panels
- Water leaks on or near electrical equipment emergency equipment/fire exits/fire escapes
- Emergency/fire exits/blocked/unusable fire escapes
- Blocked egress/ladders gas/oil hot water heater/gas/oil HVAC
- Carbon monoxide hazard
The complex has been plagued with problems for years and tenants say they're worried about their safety. Despite the federal help, some residents aren't pleased with the progress.
“They are picking apartments to fix or whatever. It is not all of them. And I am kind of upset because you have a lot of contractors out here and it's like some of the same things over and over again,” Grant said. "Somebody needs to come in here and literally test inside the walls. Until we get them to test inside these walls I won't allow them to stop."
One of the complex's new managers asked us not to follow around the inspectors. She said Wednesday she would answer any questions submitted in writing.
As of midday Thursday, people in the office said they could not say when those questions would be answered.