Fran Manor owners subject of numerous complaints
False statements to a Congressman and bureaucratic inaction highlight the latest update on the situation with the Fran Manor apartment complex in Marlinton.
The owners of the Fran Manor I, Fran Manor II and Diane apartment complexes in Marlinton and the Laverne and Veronica apartment complexes in White Sulphur Springs have been the subject of numerous complaints regarding the upkeep of their properties.
Nu-Tech Housing Services, Inc., (Nu-Tech), an Ohio Corporation, is the general partner of limited partnerships formed to operate the individual properties. Kathlyn M. Cozart, of Pickerington, Ohio, is listed as Nu-Tech's responsible officer in several government documents.
All of the apartment complexes are federally-subsidized housing projects which participate in Farmers Home Administration housing assistance programs. The FHA, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency, lent money to the limited partnerships to build the apartment complexes. Under the terms of the government loans, the partnerships are required to maintain property standards in accordance with USDA regulations.
Fran Manor II, Diane and Laverne apartments are housing for the elderly and disabled, available for persons more than 62 years of age or disabled.
Professional Property Management, Inc. (PPM), an Illinois corporation, manages all of Nu-Tech's apartment complexes in Marlinton and White Sulphur Springs. Gerald Walters, Jr., of Rockford, Illinois, is PPM's director of property management.
In November, tenants at the Fran Manor I Apartments reported substandard conditions to The Pocahontas Times. A visit revealed that tenants are working to maintain their individual apartments, but receiving little or no help from the owners or management company to maintain common areas and vacant apartments.
Tenants at Laverne Apartments and Veronica Apartments subsequently contacted the newspaper to report similar substandard conditions.
USDA officials inspected Nu-Tech's Marlinton properties on July 13, 2010. The inspection report rated conditions at Fran Manor I and Fran Manor II as "unsatisfactory." Upkeep of Diane Apartments was described as "disappointing" by the government inspector.
Regarding Fran Manor I, the inspector noted, "It appeared that the property had been abandoned by management. Two occupied units were inspected: 3 and 12 along with the following vacant units 2,4,5,6,7,8,13,14,15 and 16. None of the vacant units were rent ready, while the following were documented as uninhabitable due to the physical condition of the units: 2,4,5,6,7,8, 14 and 15."
The inspector gave PPM 15 days to provide an action plan for repairs.
Walters responded on August 12 with a list of partial repairs and an assurance that "property grounds will be maintained." The letter indicated only two of the vacant units had been cleaned and prepared for rental.
The Fran Manor I building remains dilapidated and the grounds have not been maintained. As reported in The Pocahontas Times November 23 edition, vacant apartments remain unsecured and full of trash and debris. There has been no hot water in the complex's laundry room for more than four years.
A group of frustrated tenants at Laverne elderly and disabled apartments, led by a disabled Army Vietnam veteran, joined together in a letter-writing campaign and was successful in having limited repairs made to their homes. But the property is suffering from the same neglect that led to the horrendous conditions at Fran Manor I.
In 2005, Ray Fox, a 96-year old Laverne Apartments tenant, tripped over a badly warped sidewalk and was hospitalized with a leg injury. As a result of the injury, Fox had to have a pin implanted in his leg and was forced to recover in a nursing home.
The group of tenants at Laverne Apartments wrote to federal and state officials to pressure the owners and management to make numerous necessary repairs, including the hazardous sidewalk. The tenants wrote to both U.S. Representative Nick Rahall and Senator Jay Rockefeller with information on conditions at the complex.
Both elected officials contacted U.S.D.A. Rural Development Housing Programs director Ricky Rice.
The director, in a letter signed for him by Dianne Crysler, wrote to Rahall on October 15, 2008, "The sidewalk where the elderly gentleman fell has been repaired."
Rice's statement was untrue. The sidewalk has not been repaired and remains in the same dangerous condition - more than five years after 96-year old Ray Fox fell and injured himself.
The director's letter further claimed, "An advertisement for an on-site manager for Laverne Apartments will be placed in the local newspaper over the weekend of October 11. The advertisement never appeared in the local newspaper and the complex still has no on-site manager.
In a December 11, 2008 letter (signed by Crysler), Rice informed Senator Rockefeller, "We have made several attempts to gain a response from the owners of White Sulphur Springs Elderly Limited Partnership (Nu-Tech Housing Services, Inc., and Kathryn M. Cozart), regarding [the tenant's] concerns. It is with great displeasure that I must inform you that the owners have failed to respond to us. We are, however, taking appropriate servicing actions to address these issues."
It remains unclear what those "servicing actions" were and Senator Rockefeller's office was apparently appeased with the USDA response.
Ray Fox lived to be 100 years old and died eight days after his 100th birthday.
The Pocahontas Times will continue to investigate the substandard conditions at Nu-Tech housing complexes in the area and report as we collect more information.