Ralston residents are again on notice that the owners of the downtown Columbus low-income apartment building have not paid the water bill.
“The Ralston account has entered the cycle again for the notification to the tenants to occur,” said Columbus Water Works spokesman Vic Burchfield on Tuesday. “Signs were put up today to notify tenants that water services are subject to disconnection after September 13th.”
The Water Works is also working with the United Way Home for Good and the Housing Authority so that those organizations can assist with the relocation of tenants, Burchfield said.
The Ralston is owned by a subsidiary of New Jersey-based PF Holdings Inc. That company also owns Eagles Trace, a low-income apartment complex in South Columbus, and Edmond Estates in Phenix City. Eagles Trace residents were notified earlier this year that the water bill at the complex was delinquent. It was subsequently paid, but not before plans were put in place to deal with hundreds of residents who would have to be moved.
This comes as HUD has put the ownership on notice that it has until the end of September to make the 269-unit complex “safe and sanitary.” The Ralston failed a July HUD inspection, scoring 42 out of a possible 100. That was well below the 60 that is passing.
The owners of the Ralston were hit with a $125 million wrongful death verdict by a Muscogee County State Court jury in July. Ralston resident Charles Hart died in 2017 in a Ralston room that was nearly 100 degrees at the time his body was discovered.
Two congressmen, Democrat Sanford Bishop and Republican Drew Ferguson toured the facility with Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson last week. All three officials called the conditions inside deplorable.
All of the residents depend on HUD housing vouchers for rent. Those vouchers are controlled by the owners and not the residents. Ferguson and Bishop have sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson demanding that the residents be allowed to transfer those vouchers immediately.
The Water Works has also notified the Columbus Consolidated Government so that the appropriate officials are aware of the situation.
It is the third time this year the Water Works has posted signs notifying residents that the water bill, which is included in the rent prices, has not been paid.