JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The management company and owners of a Jacksonville senior housing complex have agreed to pay a $75,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to settle an investigation into safety concerns raised by a three-alarm fire at the complex.
Five residents were injured and 200 residents were displaced Dec. 18, 2017, when a fire broke out at Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments off Philips Highway. An investigation later found that the building’s fire pump and sprinkler system weren’t working properly at the time.
The I-TEAM was first to uncover city documents showing the complex failed a fire safety inspection Oct. 24, 2017. The complex was given until Nov. 24 to get the pump that helps control sprinkler pressure fixed. Records show a Nov. 30 follow-up inspection found the pump still wasn't working.
DOCUMENTS: View a copy of the settlement agreement
Afterward, the fire marshal notified those in charge of the complex that the building either needed to be evacuated or someone needed to be placed on 24/7 “fire watch” until the issues were fixed. City officials said no one was on “fire watch” when the fire started.
The building’s owner, Jacksonville Elderly Tower I Limited Partnership, was involved in a housing subsidy contract with HUD and North Tampa Housing Development Company at the time. Part of that contract called for the owner to provide “safe and sanitary housing.”
To head off what might have turned into a costly legal fight, Jacksonville Elderly Tower I Limited Partnership, its general partner Jacksonville Elderly Tower I GP, and management company Cambridge Management Inc. agreed to pay $75,000 in “administrative fees.”
State corporate registration records show that Jacksonville Elderly Tower I Limited Partnership and Jacksonville Elderly Tower I GP are tied to Cambridge Management.
While the property owners and management company did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, they did agree to take steps to make the housing complex more “accessible for its elderly residents” and to install “additional fire protection measures.”