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I-TEAM: An update on fire-damaged Azalea Park Apartments

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 7:55 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - An apartment complex is back in the hot seat and was back on the agenda at the Augusta Commission on Tuesday.

However, no one representing Azalea Park was there to answer questions after two recent fires displaced several families.

Instead, we heard from code enforcement officials, and commissioners are wondering if enough has been done after two separate fires displaced dozens of people there in a little over a month’s time.

We learned the building did not cause these fires, some action in the building did.

But commissioners want to know more.

“They’ve been working trying to bring things up to code, I think. The structure fires really bring to question what they’ve done,” said Bobby Williams, commissioner, district five.

Before fire destroyed building ‘M” at Azalea Park in December, a tenant, gave us a look inside.

“One-hundred degrees. Freezing,” said Tawana Lewis, resident.

Lewis says she lived without heating or air for about a year.

“They gave me this old heater out of the office. Code enforcement said that was not acceptable at all,” she said.

Fast forward to December, that same apartment building caught fire, and has now been condemned by code enforcement. Making it the fourth building condemned on the property, because of fire damage in the past few years.

Commissioner John Clarke said: “I’m afraid we’ll end up with a tragedy.”

Our I-Team uncovered 206 code enforcement violations in three years’ time. Code enforcement brought it before commissioners, who gave the owners a December 31st deadline to handle the outstanding issues or risk losing their business license.

“It’s time for them to pay the piper. And what I mean by pay the piper, is for people who live there to be able to live at a standard that is standard and not substandard,” said Alvin Mason, commissioner.

Today, code enforcement says all 24 issues from September have been resolved, including rodents, safety, sewage, and water problems, but there are new issues in their place.

They found maintenance issues and code violations with 53 out of 162 units. Holding owners accountable is a double-edged sword, during an affordable housing shortage.

The owners have until Feb. 21 to fix those new issues. Commissioners are expecting the owners to be at their next committee meeting in two weeks with an update.

Williams said: “I’m really worried because we have about 70 people over there and if they were to close it down we would have to find somewhere for them to go, but at the same time, we have to make the decision that’s best for them.”

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