A week after a Muscogee County State Court jury awarded the largest trial verdict in county history, Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson is pushing to address the conditions inside Ralston Towers.
Before the jury awarded the daughter of Ralston resident Charles Hart $125 million in a wrongful death lawsuit; the mayor had reached out to the two congressman who represent Columbus.
The verdict has heightened the concerns and increased the pressure on the New Jersey-based Ralston owners.
The Ralston is a project-based U.S. Housing and Urban Development apartment building.
That means the 200 or so residents depend on HUD vouchers for all or part of their rents. The owners, New Jersey-based PF Holdings Inc. has allowed the building to fall in such disrepair that the jury said that was a critical factor in Hart’s 2017 death.
Hart was found in a room that was more than 98 degrees with an air conditioner that was not properly working.
Because of the federal funding, Henderson is turning to Congressmen Drew Ferguson and Sanford Bishop for help in dealing with HUD. The mayor also wants a first-hand look inside.
“I have never been in the rooms at the Ralston,” Henderson said. “I have seen inside the doors, but I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t know that the congressmen have ever had the opportunity. And this would give HUD a chance to tour the facilities with two members of Congress so they can make that decision.”
Henderson hopes to have the meeting before the end of the month. The situation is critical, he said.
“You have got 200 lives at stake, apparently literally, certainly what they are going to do to find quality, affordable housing for themselves,” he said.