Water shut off to nearly 70 occupied units
“I pay $650 a month. I don’t have anything else. I am on a fixed income.” Noel Jackson, Brandywine renter
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has confirmed it is investigating problems at Brandywine Condominiums that on Monday included the water service being cut off to the nearly 70 occupied apartments.
The city-parish sent registered letters to the owners of the dilapidated condominiums in January informing them that the water service would be shut off due to an unpaid sewer bill of more than $109,000. By Monday, that amount had grown to more than $117,000.
Some residents living in the complex said Monday they had no place to go and wanted to stay — even if they didn’t have running water.
“This is my home,” said Francis La Fleur, who said he has lived in Brandywine since 1970.
La Fleur owns his apartment in the complex where deep potholes dot the parking lot, boarded-up windows can be seen in several buildings and only about 70 of the 300 units are occupied.
La Fleur said he has paid condo fees of $306 each month to the complex’s condo association. The fees were to cover his sewer bill and other utilities, he said.
Noel Jackson rents a one-bedroom apartment.
“I pay $650 a month,” she said. “I don’t have anything else. I am on a fixed income.”
Jackson said the apartment manager told her not to worry about the water problem.
“She told me the bill would be paid,” Jackson said.
Laura Gerdes Colligan, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Monday in an email that officials in the office were “aware of the issue and currently looking into it.”
Colligan said the reason the Attorney General’s Office is investigating the problems at Brandywine is because of “consumer complaints and/or fair housing complaints” that have been made, but she refused to provide further details.
The apartment complex’s management office was closed Monday morning.
Stephen C. Ayers is the “main owner,” Parish Attorney Mary Roper said last month.
Ayers owns about 56 of the 70 occupied units at the complex, Randy Ligh, director of collections for the Parish Attorney’s Office, said.
The complex has been behind on payments in the past. In 2009, Brandywine owed $57,223; in October 2010, $35,430; in March 2012, $75,846, Ligh said.
Ayers along with several other owners have been invited to a Tuesday meeting with representatives from the Parish Attorney’s Office, Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said Monday.
“We are going to see if we can bring some resolution
to this issue,” she said. “It’s going to involve somebody paying.”
Collins-Lewis said the city-parish has been “very reasonable” in working with Ayers.
“I am hoping we can get it resolved in the morning,” she said.
Ayers told Collins-Lewis he would attend the meeting, she said.
Ligh said Ayers contacted the Parish Attorney’s Office within the last month, and the two parties have each proposed payment plans. Ayers offered to pay $10,000 per month but said he could not pay the overdue amount, Ligh said.
But after the city-parish presented a second proposal Feb. 25, it has not heard from Ayers, Ligh said.
The most recent proposal requires that Ayers pay 25 percent of the overdue balance plus the current bill, which totals $37,670, Ligh said. The proposal also included requirements that the overdue balance be paid within 12 months, he said.
Calls to a cellphone listed for Ayers went unanswered Monday, and a recording said the voicemail system has not been set up.
This is not the first time residents of the community have tangled with Ayers. One lawsuit over fire damage in several of the apartments is in the discovery stage, and a writ of mandamus was filed in April 2012 to force Ayers to open the condo association’s books — he is the president of the association.
The latter was dismissed late last month after process servers had trouble finding Ayers, said Sarah Lambremont, the attorney who filed the writ.