By Katlynn Lanham
November 6, 2009
CLUTE — The Texas Attorney General’s office is suing the Ashton Oaks apartment complex in Clute, asking for a judge to appoint a manager for the complex in the hopes it would reduce crime there.
The suit, filed in Brazoria County District Court, comes after Clute officials approached the attorney general’s office with concerns about the crime rate at the apartments.
The petition cites 12 narcotics or marijuana violations, two robberies and two aggravated assaults have taken place at Ashton Oaks since June 1, 2008, as evidence the owner isn’t doing enough to stop crime there.
The attorney general’s office has asked a judge either to appoint a receivership to manage the apartment for one year or shut the apartment complex down for one year, allowing the owner time to fix the issues, Clute Detective Scotty Harris said.
There is no court date set, Police Chief Mark Wicker said.
Harris and the Attorney General’s office have been working with owner Marc Johnson of Florida for several months, Harris said.
Johnson said many steps have been taken to make the complex safer, including hiring new management.
The apartment complex maintains a security guard and spends $5,000 to $6,000 every month paying off-duty Clute police officers to patrol the apartment complex Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the owner said.
Since working with the Clute Police Department and the Attorney General’s office, there have been many improvements, Johnson said. As of Thursday, Johnson was unaware that the Attorney General was seeking action in a petition against him, he said.
Ashton Oaks Manager Ann Hughes said crime at Ashton Oaks has decreased in the two months since she has been there. They are in the process of hiring a replacement security guard who will do an even better job, she said.
Clute also has sent Ashton Oaks officials a certified letter letting them know they will cut off their water supply if they are not paid their overdue water bill, Wicker said.
The water will be turned off Dec. 2 if the money is not paid by then, he said.
With late charges and interest accrued, Ashton Oaks owes Clute $427,559, Financial Director Doug Roderick said.
Ashton Oaks made several incomplete payments in the past two years, leading to $191,941 being owed to Clute. In April, they struck an agreement with the city not only to keep current on their account, but also to begin paying back the amount owed, Roderick said.
In August, Ashton Oaks complained of being unable to make water payments because a lot of water was lost in leaks, Roderick said. They were given a 36.7 percent discount for August, September and October, he said, something the city rarely does.
“We’ve gone as far as we can go,” Roderick said.
Since they were given their first warning to pay the water bill in April, the company has stayed current but has not continued paying back the money it owes the city, he said.
However, Johnson said he has paid the city more than $364,000 for water. He is being charged more per unit than the cost of an average apartment complex should be, he said.
The city’s meter is bad and leaking, causing them to charge him much more than he owes, he said. He has hired an auditor to look into what is owed to the city in water bills, he said.
Johnson owns seven other properties and has invested $2 million at this property alone, Johnson said. He is invested in making the property work, he said.
Though many residents expressed concern about the security in the area, they are more worried about maintenance of their apartments, residents said.
Jennifer Edwards has lived at Ashton Oaks with her three children for almost a year, and during that year she has been moved from apartment to apartment a few times because of maintenance issues, Edwards said.
She once waited almost a month for maintenance after her bathroom ceiling caved in, she said.
Her mother, Kimberly Schneider, also used to live at Ashton Oaks but since has moved because of pervasive mold, Schneider said. In addition to the rotting floors, stained carpet and broken front porch lights, residents pointed out many apartments do not have working smoke detectors, she said.
As the two stood outside Edwards’ front door, Edwards pushed the neighboring door in. It had been kicked in so many times the empty apartment no longer stays locked, she said.
Hughes said she is working to address maintenance issues. She plans to send out a questionnaire to residents to see what needs to be fixed at each apartment so maintenance can improve the complex, she said.
“We want them to be happy,” she said.
Political Action Committee – NAA – files Amicus Brief in mold case (two infant deaths in mold filled apt – Wasatch Prop Mgmt) citing US Chamber/ACOEM ‘litigation defense report’ to disclaim health effects of indoor mold & limit financial risk for industry
“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.” Sharon Noonan Kramer
Note – Information on Riverstone Residential knowingly exposing tenants to extreme amounts of mold toxins at Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana