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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Families living without heat, hot water in Montville apartments

    The center building of the three units at 23 Georgia Road in Oakdale is sinking and the gas lines and meters have been removed. Damage to the building can be seen on the brick wall of the unit on left. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Montville ― Families who rent apartments in a condominium building at 23 Georgia Road have been living without natural gas since the utility company deemed gas lines unsafe.

    The residents are living without a stove top, heat or hot water as they wait for the town or the condominium’s management to throw them a lifeline with winter fast approaching.

    Yankee Gas removed the gas lines and meters on the eight-unit building on Aug. 31 because the building is sinking into the ground and the movement was putting pressure on the gas lines that could have led to an explosion.

    “It could’ve blown the building sky high,“ Doug Coulter, a building inspector from the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, said this past Thursday.

    Coulter said the department has been aware for years of structural issues with the building and at several points urged the management company, U.S. Properties Real Estate Management Services, LLC, and Managing Agent Quinn Kelly, to make repairs.

    The town has no building inspector currently and is contracting with SCCOG for the service.

    Mayor Ron McDaniel said that issues with the condominium complex date back almost 20 years. He said the town repeatedly asked U.S. Properties, the condominium management company, to address the issues.

    “They failed to do so over time,” he said. “Finally it got to the point where we were worried about the stress from the gas pipes.”

    McDaniel said Kathie Doherty-Peck, the town’s social services director, is working to find living accommodations for the residents.

    Priscilla Dolzenchuk, sitting on the couch in her cluttered unit one day last week, said she has lived in Unit 15 for just over a decade. After her husband died and she had a stroke, her daughter and 6-year-old granddaughter moved in and now share a room in the two-bedroom rental.

    “This building has had issues since the day I moved in,” Dolzenchuk said.

    One issue that Dolzenchuk said she was not aware of, however, was the fact that the building had been sinking into the ground.

    In July, she called the building department in the middle of the night to report a burst water pipe.

    The pipe had been held in place by the building’s concrete foundation, which also held gas and sewer lines, and had been under so much stress that it had ripped apart and was exposed from the wall, Coulter said.

    The next day, the building department inspected the premises. Following the inspection, it disclosed in a letter to the condo’s management company that the structure was unsafe and that it did not meet state building codes.

    A similar inspection, conducted four years ago by an engineer from CLA Engineers had identified the same structural concerns that were included in the 2023 inspection.

    At the conclusion of both inspections, their results were sent to the management company with a deadline of 30 days for it to submit a work plan to the building department and six months for it to complete repairs to the premises.

    “In 2019 they got a report that their building was in structural danger,” Coulter said. “We sent them a letter saying they needed to act and they did not respond.”

    Coulter indicated that the town had reached out to a state prosecutor to discuss filing a criminal complaint that might force action. But the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the court, he said, derailing any plan to take legal action.

    Irmgard Boling, of Madison, who co-owns several units in the building ― including the one leased by Dolzenchuk ― wrote in a text message to tenant Vanessa Judd that the cost estimate for repairs back in 2019 was around $800,000.

    “The majority of the owners voted against it and that was the end of it,” Boling wrote. She added that U.S. Properties recently retained a lawyer to make the case for taking the building down.

    Coulter said the managing agent and board of directors of the condominium association, who are elected condominium owners, have said they would not pay for the repairs.

    Coulter said that U.S. Properties has met the 30-day deadline ― unlike in 2019, when they didn’t respond ― and provided a plan to the building department. A copy of the plan is not yet available.

    Managing Agent Quinn Kelly from U.S. Properties, reached by phone Thursday afternoon, said he required approval from the condo association’s board of directors before speaking on their behalf.

    d.drainville@theday.com

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