JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Councilman Tommy Hazouri and Jacksonville Fire Marshal Kevin Jones made an unannounced visit Wednesday morning to inspect the Washington Heights apartment complex.
Hazouri also released a certified letter that he sent to the Rev. Richard Hamlet, president of the foundation that owns Washington Heights and Eureka Gardens, saying that the city has documented evidence of mold and mildew, gas leaks, plumbing issues, piling issues and termite infestations.
During Wednesday's unannounced visit, Hazouri and Jones found gas stoves eroding, which Jones said is dangerous. Deteriorating stairwells also were deemed a safety concern.
“Fire could happen instantly,” Hazouri said. “The pilot light is higher than it should be.”
On top of that, Hazouri said that there is no way residents would know if they have a gas or carbon monoxide leak.
“There’s no carbon monoxide detectors in any of the apartments, and they obviously all have gas stoves,” Hazouri said.
In his letter to Hamlet, Hazouri demanded that Global Ministries Foundation, the property's owner, perform air quality tests for the presence of mold and install carbon monoxide detectors in all 200 units.
Hazouri also told Hamlet that he wants a detailed timeline for when the issues will be fixed.
Residents told the I-TEAM, which has worked for months to expose the squalid living conditions at Washington Heights and Eureka Gardens, that they are upset about having to buy their own air conditioning units and pay an additional $12 a month in rent to run them.
“I understand they need their money too, but it’s a bit much to me (to pay for air conditioning),” one resident said.
Earlier this month, the I-TEAM obtained a three-page report detailing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspection score for Washington Heights, which was one-hundredth of a point over passing.
The report from HUD's December inspection of the complex showed that it barely earned a passing score with a 60.01, seven points lower than the previous year.
Hamlet has until Aug.1 to replace or repair the major problems cited in the HUD inspection, and federal housing officials are demanding that GMF engage as many contractors as necessary to meet the deadline.
“Some people say, 'Why are you picking on the reverend?' Well, they’ve closed two of his places in Memphis,” Hazouri said. “This place needs to be sold or fixed up immediately.”
Hazouri said he has yet to get a response from Hamlet. He said that if the timeline to fix the issues is too long, the city might have to come up with another plan of action.