Nov 022006
 
Authors: JAMES BAETKE The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Drake Durham is in a real bind. All his possessions are currently locked up in a condemned apartment plagued with smoke damage and possibly asbestos.

Everything from Durham’s bed to his checkbook and socks has been barricaded since a fire left almost all of the 24 units of his apartment building unlivable.

“They found asbestos and said the apartment would be uninhabitable,” the 24-year-old Fort Collins resident said.

On Oct. 26, a fire in the Stadium Apartments complex completely gutted one unit, causing smoke damage among the rest of the building. About 45 percent of the complex’s residents were CSU students.

Residents were barred from their apartments, located on West Elizabeth Street near Taft Hill Road, and some of them were put up in a motel over the weekend at the expense of Evergreen Property Management Inc. A select few were placed in other vacant apartments owned by the company.

After further inspection of the damaged building, fire officials detected asbestos in the apartments.

Sunday night, three days after the blaze, Evergreen Property Management told Durham they would no longer be paying for his motel stay.

“We were given one day’s notice to move out,” Durham said.

Evergreen officials said they are sorry for the one-day notice, but insist they had no other choice.

Jason Mantas, spokesman for the Poudre Valley Fire Authority, said fire investigators are still trying to pinpoint the exact cause of the blaze and are waiting on outside testing to determine if asbestos is actually present.

“Water leaking from the roof may have played a part in causing the fire,” Mantas said, although the cause is still unclear.

Don Krammerer, senior manager for Evergreen, said displaced residents in motels were informed Monday of the asbestos and told to find alternate living arrangements.

“We are unsure about an asbestos spill, therefore the building has been secured,” Krammerer said. “As soon as we know results we will communicate that to our tenants.”

If the presence of asbestos as tested is noxious, Evergreen must continue to keep tenants from their living spaces, and residents will have to wait longer until they can retrieve their property.

“We thought we would be able to put residents back in their homes in a short period of time,” Krammerer said. “We are doing everything we can to help our tenants.”

Evergreen says it is prepared to cut checks for displaced residents who didn’t take up hotel accommodations and are due rent money. They are also prepared to return security deposits on a case-by-case basis.

Built in 1970, the Stadium Apartments have never been subject to a fire, according to Larimer County documents. Evergreen has 250 units in Fort Collins in 40 different locations and since its genesis in the city has never dealt with a fire at one of its properties.

“We have never had to deal with (fire) before; it is something we are struggling with,” Krammerer said. “We’ve gone beyond our duty, and although there are hard circumstances to bear, it’s business”

Meanwhile, Durham is in limbo about getting his deposit back. He is also clueless as to when he can gather his belongings. Durham was lucky enough to find an apartment that moved him and his girlfriend in right away.

“In my opinion, it’s (Evergreen’s) fault and I don’t think they have done a good job compensating us,” Durham said. “I’m pretty upset with the way they are handling the situation.”

Staff writer James Baetke can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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