Water outage latest issue for Eureka Gardens residents

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Residents of the Eureka Gardens apartments spent part of the weekend without water -- the latest issue for the 50-year-old federally subsidized housing complex.

Complaints about the water outage came in to the I-TEAM, which began investigating living conditions at the Northwest Jacksonville property three years ago. Last week, we reported about other, continuing problems, including extended gas shutoffs for long period of time.

The gas lines and shutoff valves at the 400-unit complex are original, dating to 1968.  According to the new management company -- Millennia Housing Management, which has a contract to buy the property -- there aren’t enough gas line shutoff valves on the property, so when one unit reports a leak, workers have to shut off gas to large portions of the complex while they make repairs.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue records show it has responded to four major gas leaks already this year.

The complex experiences a similar issue with the water.

Pastor Mark Griffin, spokesman for the Eureka Gardens Tenants Association, said the lift stations that pump sewage water from the Eureka Gardens complex are also 50 years old and they continue to fail, as they did this weekend, forcing the water shutoff to all 400 residents. 

"It’s not only a convenience issue, but also a health issue -- people not able to flush their toilets, not being able to take baths," Griffin said. ”This is the result of many years of neglect by the previous owners."

Residents also complain of mold, holes in the walls and other problems.

A spokesperson for the Millennia said the company can't adequately address these issues until it takes ownership of the property from Global Ministries Foundation. Millenia plans on spending more than $17 million renovating the property, including:

•    New gas shutoff valves that will allow them to fix a small gas leak without turning off gas to the entire complex
•    New windows and doors
•    New stairwells, porches and balcony configurations
•    New furnaces and central air conditioning
•    Complete unit interior upgrades, including new cabinets and countertops
•    New plumbing fixtures and lighting
•    EnergyStar appliances

The community will be renamed Valencia Way, with plans to beautify the grounds with new gardens, signage, furniture, walking paths and playgrounds.

Millennia's contract with Global Ministries was signed more than 18 months ago and a spokesman said it expects to close on the new property within the next three months. But that's the same thing the I-TEAM was told in June.

Some real estate experts said this amount of time to complete a sale is typical in the exchange of Section 8 HUD housing.

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