EXCLUSIVE: Ralston residents allege intimidation, cover-ups as HUD inspection looms

Community News

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Half a dozen Ralston Towers residents got an audience with the City of Columbus’s top leaders, and they didn’t hold back.

As the Oct. 1 deadline for the Ralston to come back up to code came and went, residents at the low-income housing facility in downtown Columbus continue to face anxiety over their future, and alleged intimidation by building managers to stay quiet.

Residents have worked to coordinate a meeting with city leaders, even as the Ralston’s maintenance crews work to patch, hide, or ignore the issues that continue to plague the building. Attempts to organize have been met with resistance by management, including meeting signs getting ripped off the walls.

Meeting today with city managers, council members, city code enforcement, and Mayor Skip Henderson, Ralston residents laid out their grievances and the ongoing battle they’ve been fighting to receive basic health and safety needs in their homes.

Bed bugs clinging to the walls, vermin in the laundry rooms, an elevator out of order again, laundry machines that don’t work, and trash chutes backed up to the sixth floor, are just some of the problems residents continue to face.

For the city, it’s been an uphill battle from the start.

“We’ve been dealing with this behind the scenes for three years,” said City Inspections and Code Director John Hudgison, “…nothing operated like it should.”

The building’s most recent Housing and Urban Development inspection in July, which failed with a 42 out of 100, has a follow-up scheduled in the coming days.

Hudgison says the reinspection will take two days and will be conducted by HUD inspectors and not a contractor. A second failed score and the HUD funding will be pulled, forcing the federal agency to relocate all of the nearly 200 residents.

For the residents, and the city government, change can’t come soon enough.

“This has been going on for these residents, one gentleman said six years. When you listen to the kind of environment they describe, based on what they tell me it sounds like a night in a haunted mansion. You’ve got critters running around on the floor,” Henderson said. “You’ve got bed bugs all over the walls. You’ve got leaking pipes that nobody does anything about. You’ve got mold and mildew, again based on their assertion, behind areas that have been covered up and painted over. At best, it’s slumlord conditions. At worst, it’s criminal.”

Henderson isn’t the only party to relate the issues to slumlord conditions. Willie Davis, a 12-year Ralston resident, is angry with the New Jersey-based owners, PF Holdings.

“These people are beyond slumlords. They have no conscience. They have no morals, no values. I am quite sure they are not living like this,” Davis said.

Read the full failed inspection report of the Ralston below:

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