Ralston owners avoid water cutoff, pay $52,553.63 delinquent bill

Local News

The owners of Ralston Towers have paid the water bill, a Columbus Water Works spokesman told News 3 Friday.

The $52, 553.63 in delinquent bills for June and July were paid this morning, spokesman Vic Burchfield said in response to an inquiry from News 3.

Signs went up in front of the building Tuesday informing residents of the downtown low-income apartment building that the bill was outstanding and water would be cut off on Sept. 13 if it was not paid. Those signs were taken down about 11 a.m., shortly after the bill was paid.

This is the third time this year that the Water Works has started the cutoff notification process only to have PF Holdings Inc. pay the bill before the cutoff date.

The issues at the Ralston have been many in recent years.

HUD has given the owners 60 days to make the place safe, sanitary, and decent. If drastic improvements are not made by the end of September, HUD will take action against the owner.

In a July inspection, the Ralston scored a 42 on a 100-point scale. That is 18 points below failing.

The Ralston has been hit with a significant civil judgment in Muscogee County State Court. Attorney Charles Gower won a $125 million wrongful death verdict against the owners of the Ralston in July for the death of resident Charles Hart. He died in July 2017 in a room that was nearly 100 degrees. The Ralston’s owners are appealing that verdict. 

Attorneys for PF Holdings have told News 3 they will not comment during the appeals process. After this summer’s trial, attorneys would not comment. Local management also declined to comment.

It comes as the ownership is under intense fire from two congressmen for the living conditions inside the 269-unit complex that houses about 200 residents. All of the residents receive some sort of federal assistance from HUD.

Republican Drew Ferguson and Democrat Sanford Bishop have called on HUD Secretary Ben Carson to allow the residents to move out immediately and carry their federal housing subsidies with them. A spokesman for Ferguson’s office says the congressmen have been told that likely won’t happen. 

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