Northland News

Delegation seeks 'political pressure' on site owners

Concerned citizens pushing for 'political pressure' on owners of fire-damaged complex

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A delegation of concerned citizens was scheduled to meet today, Dec. 6, with two members of Columbus City Council and other officials to discuss ways of bringing about major improvements to the Summit Park Apartments on Le Marie Place.

The complex, the scene of a fire Aug. 20 that left dozens of families seeking shelter, is primarily home to people relatively new to this country, including a large segment of Bhutanese refugees from Nepal.

Members of the Northland Community Stakeholders and Friends of Summit Park met last week at Peace United Methodist Church on Ferris Road to devise strategies for getting city officials to ramp up what they say are lackluster efforts to get the apartment owners to bring the units up to code and make good on longstanding promises to effect myriad repairs.

For their part, code enforcement personnel have said the new managers of the apartment complex are making adequate progress on addressing complaints and that the overall facility is not as bad as critics have made it out to be.

Northland Alliance chairwoman Joyce Bourgault said at the meeting she arranged for the Dec. 6 session at 1:30 p.m. in City Hall with council members Zachary M. Klein and A. Troy Miller, as well as City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. and other officials.

There was some discussion among the group, led by the Rev. Gregory H. Herndon of Epworth United Methodist Church on Karl Road, about getting some of the tenants of Summit Park Apartments involved in the effort in order to bring more focus to the issues.

"It also makes the group stronger to have tenants front and center," said Molly Hennessey, a managing attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

"I've got some doors to knock on," said Rebecca Rutledge, who has been teaching English to newcomers at Peace United Methodist for the past two years and who, she Nov. 14, finally became outraged over the conditions in which her students were living.

She has filed almost 90 complaints on behalf of Summit Park residents dating back to June that have still not been fully addressed, Rutledge said.

"No one should have to live under those circumstances," Herndon said.

He said he has been in touch with the owners of Summit Park Apartments, and they had wanted to be on hand for last week's meeting, but he deferred until after the Dec. 6 discussion with city officials.

"It seems to me that it's a waste of time," Rutledge said. "By your actions ye shall be known."

Herndon said before meeting with owners and management of the complex he wanted to bring more "political heat, political pressure" to bear on the problems at the apartments.

Assistant City Attorney Bill Sperlazza attended the Friends of Summit Park gathering and said he anticipates building and code enforcement personnel at the City Hall meeting would report that the apartment owners are being cooperative and are working to address the issues Rutledge has raised.

Pfeiffer is willing to bring legal action if necessary, Bourgault said, but only once all the proper steps are taken.

"We've got to follow the process," she said. "We've got laws for a reason."

The group is scheduled to meet Dec. 12 to discuss the session with council members and other officials.

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