Georgia State housing encounters increasing facility issues

Georgia State housing encounters increasing facility issues

On March 1, 2018 • By Brenna Hilby
Lola Velichkovsky reported experiencing health issues induced by the living conditions in Piedmont North. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

For several Georgia State students, facility issues in residence halls have become progressively noticeable. And for one, these issues have become hazardous.

Lola Velichkovsky, a Georgia State international economics major, lived in Piedmont North in the fall of 2017. She decided to move to University Commons after experiencing facility problems in her room that quickly led to personal health issues.

“I did not feel that the health conditions were up to code,” she said. According to Velichkovsky, there was a “lack of ventilation in the bathroom,” which made humidity accumulate in her room, and eventually her “bed sheets started feeling damp, constantly.” She said that her “roommates definitely noticed that their bed sheets were damp” as well.

Velichkovsky said she realized the conditions weren’t as they should be when a friend complained after spending the night in her apartment. That’s when she went to her advisor and requested to move out.

“One night when I wasn’t staying in my room, one of my roommate’s friends slept in my bed, and he told me that he woke up with a very sore dry throat,” she said. “Then I remember I got a cough, and my throat felt agitated every time I sat in my room, which made it hard for me to sleep.”

Dr. Harry Heiman, a Georgia State public health professor, said some living conditions like black mold can trigger an individual’s asthma, allergies, or other health problems, depending on a person’s sensitivity.

He said that “about 40 percent of childhood asthma is tied to living conditions,” mostly “having to do with issues around moisture and mold and particulates in the air.”

“Conditions that for one person are perfectly fine, for another they may not be,” he said.

Velichkovsky said her health issues persisted while living at Piedmont North, so she saw a doctor who determined her “throat was very agitated” and that “it was likely irritated from some kind of allergy, which could have been either dust from the heater or mold.”

Several students revealed similar experiences with residence hall facility issues in anonymous reddit messages to The Signal.

One Georgia State student said there was “a good bit of mold inside the bathroom vent” in their room in Piedmont North. Another said the vents in Piedmont North bathrooms are all connected, and that they get “constant deposits of dust from all the rooms, as well as whatever wonderful smells are coming from other rooms.”

Other students told The Signal about issues they encountered in University Lofts. One student said they’re “dealing with an ant problem at the moment. They seem to be getting in through the bathroom.” The student said they used ant repellent along all of the walls, but have not seen any improvements with the issue.

Another student residing at University Lofts said the space above their shower had “some black mold above it,” and said they “filed a report about it at move in and no one came to check on it.”

So what is the course of action when issues like these are reported?

ADDRESSING THE MOLD
The Georgia State University Housing department said they have received “about 10 reports for this semester of mold or mildew,” and that when they get reports on issues like these, “the staff assesses the area for moisture and conditions that support microorganism growth, and work to fix the problem.”

The department explained their procedure in dealing with reports like these is “preventive maintenance, which includes cleaning and any necessary repairs during times when students are not occupying residential spaces,” and that the maintenance request system is a main way for them to “identify, track and follow-up on issues and to notice any trends, if they exist.”

But Velichkovsky said she made little headway when she began reporting the issues.

When she began putting maintenance requests in, in her view, they were not resolved in a timely manner. After about three requests, “someone finally came at the end of the month.” They told her and her roomates that they weren’t keeping their room cold enough, “even though it was probably at about 65 degrees,” she said.
After no luck with residence maintenance, Velichkovsky said she spoke to one of the Piedmont North resident assistants, who told her “they turned off the ventilation in the bathrooms because people were smoking in there.” She also said the “only reason why the maintenance people came to help” was because she voiced her concerns to a resident assistant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mold growth can be controlled by “controlling humidity levels” and “ventilating shower, laundry, and cooking areas,” neither of which were adjusted by residence staff after Velichkovsky’s reports.

“That made me realize that the administration was sacrificing students’ basic comforts because of a couple people who were doing something that they weren’t supposed to,” Velichkovsky said.

Eventually, she met with her honors college advisor, who contacted someone who was able to put her on a list for a room change. Over winter break, she was finally approved to move to University Commons.

The housing department said in recent months, reports for Piedmont North have been handled by the department in accordance with standard procedures.

Velichkovsky said she never received further communication from the department regarding the issues she had at Piedmont North.

Local family deals with effects of black mold

Local family deals with effects of black mold

Scott and Trish Johnson were ecstatic when they bought their home in Preston, Minn., in January 2016.  After working hard and saving money they were able to purchase the home they had been dreaming of.  Two years later their lives were turned upside down when a drastic black mold problem was discovered throughout the house.

On January 22, 2018 there was a winter storm that dropped a mix of rain and snow for many hours.  Scott says, “We had water actually come in through the foundation wall into the bathroom downstairs,” in the basement. 

“We pulled the baseboards just outside the bathroom because the carpet had gotten wet there also,” explains Scott.  When they removed the baseboards they saw black along the floor.

They were very alarmed by seeing this and decided they would check the bathroom area since that’s where they saw they had water, states Trish.

“I knocked out a 12” x 12” square of sheetrock thinking we have to get this dried out and we see black,” says Trish. 

They called America’s Best Cleaning and Restoration Services out of Rochester, Minn., the next day.  “They did an air quality test and it was off the charts; they said you can’t live here,” states Trish. 

This would be shocking and upsetting for any family but the Johnsons had even more reason to be worried. In 2010 their second child, Slade, was born premature, weighing a mere one lb, four oz and spent 118 days in the hospital, leaving him with many complications including additional surgeries. 

Slade has an underdeveloped and compromised respiratory system which makes even minor sicknesses, such as a common cold, very dangerous and possibly life-threatening. 

The Johnson family, which includes Scott, Trish, Xander, 9, Slade, 7, and Paizley, 3, moved out of their home the next day taking very little with them.  Traci Corson, owner of the Trailhead Inn & Suites in Preston, Minn., generously offered the family to stay in a suite for two weeks.

“At that point we thought okay we have to gut out the basement,” explains Trish.  So they called American Waterworks from Rochester.  “They did a whole beaver dam system to get the drainage out,” and did waterproofing, according to Trish. 

Another air quality test was performed and it failed – upstairs.  So they started opening exploratory holes throughout the house and kept finding black mold everywhere.  Before long it was apparent that the entire house needed to be gutted. 

The family had to throw away most of their belongings due to the mold issue in the home. Being shortly after Christmas many of the items that the children had to give up were toys and other presents they had gotten for Christmas.

As any homeowner who may come across a mold problem, the Johnsons contacted their insurance agent. To their dismay, they were told they would be getting no financial help from the insurance company. 

“With the water that came in it was an issue of the water coming in from outside the house so since it wasn’t a water source or a pipe or something inside the house it wasn’t covered because the water actually came through the structure,” states Scott.

“As far as the mold, the types of mold that were coming up have been growing for years and years,” he says.  “Ten years plus it had to be growing in this home to be at the level it was at,” states Trish.

Since there is not a pinpoint of when the mold started it’s considered a “maintenance issue,” explains Scott, so it is not covered by their homeowner’s insurance.   

For two months it seemed like every day they got worse news.  By this time the family had moved again, into a rental home, generously offered by Eric and Tara Corson where they have been staying for the last two months.

After the discovery of the black mold in their home, the Johnsons contacted Slade’s doctor, concerned about the effects of the black mold, especially since the boys’ bedrooms had been in the basement.  They were advised to bring Slade in to the infusion center right away as many of the symptoms Slade had been experiencing the previous months were about to be explained.

“Slade was so sick and we couldn’t figure out why,” states Trish, saying, “they thought it was cancer — they did CT scans, MRIs, blood draws, bone scans,” to try to figure out why his bones were closing (aging) and they could not figure out what was causing him to be so sick.  “He kept deteriorating and losing weight and we knew something was wrong but didn’t know what,” states Trish.

Slade was diagnosed with Black Mold Toxicity.  The Johnsons decided to have Slade’s mattress tested for mold spore count, and with 30 considered infested, the mold spore count on his mattress was 18,000.

“So if nothing else, I have to say we are thankful that our house flooded,” says Trish, rather than living in the house for who knows how long without finding out about the black mold and “not figuring it out and how bad he would have gotten,” she adds. 

There is good news.  Slade just had a repeat bone scan and although the damage that has been done is permanent, his bones have stopped closing.  “He used to take naps at school; he’s not napping anymore, he couldn’t make it through phy ed; now he can run three laps in the gym,” notes Trish.

Major work is being completed on their home as it has been gutted completely and anything that needs to be treated to prevent mold has been treated. 

Meanwhile, the Johnsons have moved once again, this time into an apartment, until they can move back into their home.  It’s been very hard as the family has been living out of boxes because “you don’t even want to unpack because you know you’re going to leave again,” states Trish. The family just wants to go home.

The Johnsons are very thankful to so many people that have been helping them get through this situation that has completely taken over their lives. Their families have been wonderful and very supportive. “Friends and family have definitely been a huge piece of maintaining sanity,” says Scott. 

Members of their church, Greenleafton Reformed Church, “have blessed us so very much,” states Trish. “For three weeks we didn’t have to cook,” states Scott, as members of the church brought them meals after they had to move out of their home and also helped pull staples in the basement that needed to be removed.

Scott and Trish are usually the ones who are offering their help and support to others.  Scott was a member of the 79th Military Police Company, serving in Iraq as a medic.  His brothers and sisters in his old unit have been awesome, states Scott.  They have started a GoFundMe page for the family.  To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/2nvspr-military-family-in-need.  Donations can also be mailed to the Johnson Family at P.O. Box 673, Preston, Minn. 55965.

Scott’s sister, Bethany Johnson, says, “They always look out for others and do what they can to help anyone that they can, asking nothing in return,”  and now they are in need.  Being in a situation where they need to ask for help “is a hard pill to swallow,” states Scott, but what is most important to Scott and Trish are their children and their children need a safe home.

Between paying the mortgage on their home and rent on the apartment where they are staying, along with regular monthly bills, construction costs, cost of replacing necessities, meals and numerous other expenses, the family is in great need of financial help.

Everyone has been so supportive, with neighbors stopping by to check on them, and the local food shelf offering assistance.  “Preston is amazing,” says Trish. 

They would like to thank the businesses that have helped or are helping get their house fixed including America’s Best, who are “amazing” and “have gone above and beyond,” says Trish,  American Waterworks, Byler Const., Haakenson Electric, Kingsley’s Mercantile, Lifetime Insulation, Hiller’s Carpet, and Clay and Dylan who are scheduled to do sheetrock and finishing work.

The family hopes to be back in their home on June 1, or as soon as possible, at which time they will need to replace their furniture and other items so the needs of the family will be ongoing for some time. 

“We know that God’s hands are at work in this process. From finding the medical answers for Slade to the love and generosity from even strangers.  While we appreciate financial support we ask, even more, for support through prayers,” state the Johnson’s.

Buildings may soon be demolished

Buildings may soon be demolished

T-L Photo/LENNY WITTENBROOK The Convenient store in Flushing is open under new management. The new owner, Doug Cash, hopes voters will support alcohol sales at the location, in which case he would demolish the store and construct a new building there.

FLUSHING — Village council recently learned that demolition of the old Flushing school buildings could begin as soon as April after the latest asbestos evaluation came back cleaner than expected.

Mayor Angelo Vincenzo said Katherine Kelich from the Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp., commonly known as the Land Bank, had informed him that a new asbestos evaluation had been completed and that only minor amounts of the substance had been found. She added that the removal of the asbestos had already been completed.

Vincenzo said the new evaluation was performed for $1,700 and that removal had only cost $780, which mostly involved the removal of pipe wrappings. He added that once a signed agreement is received from the owners of the disposal site the bid process for the demolition will begin. He said officials were “looking around late April or early May at the latest.”

Vincenzo also said that the brick from the buildings could be salvaged, but that he and Kelich doubt that anything could be salvaged from inside the buildings due to safety concerns.

“I did a walk through, and it’s bad, really bad. There’s black mold,” Vincenzo said. “I don’t even want anybody going in there trying to salvage anything. It’s just not worth it.”

Vincenzo went on to say that he believes the final demolition cost is going to be significantly less than originally thought and that he thought the village should use some of the savings and continue to work with Kelich and the Land Bank to remove more dilapidated structures from the village.

Meanwhile, Jamie Gay from the Flushing Business Association was at last week’s meeting to discuss plans for projects and events for the spring and summer. She said the organization wants to renovate the top concession stand at the village’s Schuler Park and that the plan is to paint the building, install a new counter top and floor tiles and possibly replace all the appliances.

Council happily granted permission for the project with the understanding that the stand should be ready to use for a graduation party that is scheduled for May.

Gay also asked for council’s permission to hold this year’s Flushing Heritage Days event on the weekend of June 8 and announced that the group plans to hold a golf ball drop fundraiser to culminate during the event. She explained that 1,000 golf balls will be sold between now and the event for $5 each to be dumped en masse from a front end loader with the owner of the ball finishing closest to a designated target winning a $1,000 prize.

Council approved the scheduling of the festival.

Gay also said the business association is working on a playground grant for the park.

Village Administrator Bryan Clark updated council on the sewer issue on East High Street, saying that a contractor had cleared a bunch of tree roots from the pipes before running a camera through a 265-foot long section of the sewer in that area. Clark said there were 15 bad spots just in that section where tile was separated, allowing the infiltration of ground water as well as other structural damage to the pipes. He stressed that the problems would need to be addressed at some point.

He also said he was in the process of getting quotes for the removal of dead trees in the cemetery and on Mill Road, and that the furnace in the municipal building “was on the fritz.” He discussed some preliminary options on how to deal with the problem with the mayor and council.

Clark also said there were about 107 water meters left to install in the village and that the changeover to the village’s new garbage collection contractor was going smoothly.

In an unrelated matter, Vincenzo said the Flushing Convenient Store recently re-opened under new management. He said he had met with the new owner, Doug Cash, and that he felt confident about Cash’s intentions for the store.

According to Vincenzo, Cash intends to petition for alcohol sales and feels that the store’s future depends on alcohol sales being allowed. The plan is to partition off the front half of the store to focus on gasoline and grocery sales until June. If the residents of Flushing vote to allow alcohol sales, which would be for carryout only, Cash plans to tear down the existing store in order to construct a new one.

Vincenzo will be scheduling a public forum to discuss the proposed alcohol sales with residents. He said that he, personally, will be supporting the endeavor.

Flushing’s next scheduled council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. April 12 in the municipal building.

Mold issues continue at Mass. housing authority

Mold issues continue at Mass. housing authority

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. (NEWS10) – A woman living in a mold-ridden apartment says a new report shows just how long the issue has been ignored.

Ariane Blanchard says she lived in a mold-ridden apartment for years at the Great Barrington Housing Authority’s Flag Rock Village.

Now she has a new start in a new apartment but a mold report from her former place is opening up old wounds.

It’s a new day for Blanchard after getting a new home in Stockbridge.

She’s afraid it’s too late for her deteriorating health, which she blames on her former mold-ridden apartment.

“Here we are and I’m sick with this thing called Neuro Sarcoidosis and it’s just not fair.”

NEWS10 ABC first told you about Blanchard in September 2017.

She says she spent years trying to get the Great Barrington Housing Authority to cut out toxic mold found in her apartment.

At the time, the Housing Authority told NEWS10 ABC Blanchard initially rejected their installation of a dehumidifier but, that they remediated the mold problem.

Results from a recent report, done by Nature’s Way, Inc. Mold Inspection, tell a different story.

The mold was found in nearly every room, the bathroom vent, and even a dehumidifier.

“Stachybotrys, or black mold, was found in almost every room. They found 12,000 spores per cubic meter of Penicillium/Aspergillus in my bedroom. The bedroom where I’ve been the last 12 years.”

She says she was furious after reading the report.

“I had my grandmother in that apartment, my kids. I am furious at this moment.”

A lawyer for the Great Barrington Housing Authority says they just received the report on Wednesday and still need to look it over.

“Nobody from the housing authority’s side has been able to review it with any detail. No expert has reviewed it on behalf of the authority,” John Liebel, attorney for the Great Barrington Housing Authority, said.

Blanchard is now on a mission to help other families, who may feel trapped like she did for more than a decade.

“This has got to end, more importantly, they can’t do this to anybody else, that’s the thing. It wasn’t just my unit that had this problem. There are people still living there.”

This case will go to trial in August.

Local family deals with mold in house

Local family deals with mold in house

Family members say they’ve gotten sick from the issues

By Tommy Lopez – Weekend Anchor / Reporter

 – Members of a local family said Friday they’re without a place to live after a dangerous mold problem. The family members told 10 News that they’ve been getting sick and they wish their landlord would take action.

Natasha and Tommy Delp said the Bedford County house they’re renting north of Stewartsville has black mold on the hardwood floors and white mold on the walls of the attic and on the garage ceiling.
They say the problem forced them, their son who has a learning disability and a family member with a mental disability to leave their house and stay with friends after they were getting sick.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Natasha Delp said. “We actually thought this was the perfect home.”

They said they were sneezing and coughing, getting headaches, congestion and itchy eyes, and having fatigue and memory problems.

“It’s devastating,” Tommy Delp said. “We’ve all been sick, trips to the doctors and trying to get tests. It’s been a big headache.”

They wish their landlord had fixed the problem.

“When people go in now it hits them, their eyes water, you can sit there and taste it in your mouth,” Natasha Delp said.

She said a Bedford County inspector came to look at the building, but wouldn’t share information with them, and an outside contractor tells the family that it’s unsafe for anyone to live there.

The family says it doesn’t have the money to move and wants the landlord to return some of its rent money.

“I don’t believe he’s playing fairly, by the books,” Tommy Delp said. “I believe he’s hiding it and covering it up. He’s not being very honest.”

He said the landlord has agreed to let them out of their lease and is awaiting test results from another contractor.

Lanesborough Police Union: Station Is ‘Unsafe and Unprofessional’

image description
Police Chief Timothy Sorrell presented the letter the Selectmen on Monday. Next to him is Jeffrey Collingwood, an engineering who has been working with Ericson on some repairs to the building.

Lanesborough Police Union: Station Is ‘Unsafe and Unprofessional’

By Andy McKeever
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town’s police officers want an improved working environment.
The police officer’s union, Lanesborough Police Officers Association MassCop, Local 390, wrote to the Board of Selectmen saying the station is “unsafe and unprofessional.”
“The current unsafe and unprofessional conditions are preventing our members from effectively executing our duties and are creating a liability for the town,” the letter reads. “There is an immediate need to complete the necessary and overdue renovations.”
This isn’t the first time the union has expressed concerns with the aging building. It was just a few years ago when the police association expressed concern with the air quality there. The town tried to rectify that by purchasing an air purifier.
“There are multiple holes in the walls of the station, some of which have towels stuffed inside of them to prevent cold air from penetrating the small and cramped workspace. The integrity of our locker room is suspect at best. Black mold has been found on the walls and other surfaces of the building. The corrective action was to provide a simple air purifier,” the letter given to the Selectmen on Monday reads.
The union voiced concern about the electrical outlets, the structure of the facility, the size, and the structure’s practical application in today’s policing environment.
The union says not only is the small station lacking the privacy for such interviews but that electrical outlets are “dangerously overloaded with additional power strips to support equipment.” There is exposed wiring over door casings and stapled to the walls. The smoke and carbon monoxide detectors don’t work.
“The brick structure is significantly deteriorated and visible damage can be seen behind the broken drywall. The front entry door is badly rusted, corroded, and at times can’t be secured,” the letter reads. “The windows are inefficient with the locks broken or missing altogether. These are obvious security concerns for the officers working in the building.”
The letter says hay bales are stacked outside the building to act as insulation. The furnace leaks and “uniforms and other clothing smell like fuel when removed for duty.” There’s also the need for privacy when taking statements from statements related to investigations.
“We are required by Massachusetts law to video and audio record some of these statements. The ideal scenario is to have a dedicated space to take these statements that is private, free of distractions, and is a space to eliminate barriers. This is for a number of reasons and speaks to the sciences behind efficient and effective law enforcement tactics,” the letter reads.
“We ask that you put yourself in the shoes of a survivor of sexual assault and you have to give a victim in our current space. If you do so, we feel that you will understand the importance and need for a private and safe place to discuss horrific and personal details. If you were a survivor of a horrific crime and you are giving a statement in our current space, would you have the confidence that the Lanesborough Police Department will bring a successful resolution to this horrible crime? Put yourself in the shoes of a suspect who has committed this horrible crime. Would you have confidence that the Lanesborough Police Department could prove your guilt?”
Selectman Robert Ericson has been personally working on a renovation plan and has four phases planned out. Those include creating new office space, replacing the furnace, insulating ductwork and walls, installing new electrical services and doors, and making repairs throughout. It will include relocating the lockers, flooring, and general upkeep. Ericson said he is starting with the garage area and moving north.
The project is estimated to cost $20,254, with the majority of it being paid through the state’s Green Communities program.
But the union said the repairs needed are far beyond what Ericson can do.
“Although we are appreciative of Selectman Ericson’s effort to try and resolve these issues, we feel that the scope of this project is beyond one person’s capabilities. Furthermore, the attempts to resolve some of these conditions have exposed Selectman Ericson to unsafe working conditions as it appears he is lacking required safety equipment,” the letter reads.
While Ericson has been working toward fixing many of those cited issues, the officers noticed money to design brand-new police stations for Pittsfield and North Adams have been included in the state’s bond bill.
“I’d love to have a new station or better accommodations, but I understand the budget is tight,” Police Chief Timothy Sorrell told the Board of Selectmen.
Sorrell said he has worked out of that building for nearly 30 years. During that same period, the town of Lenox has had three different station projects. Sorrell says the condition of the town’s  police station is “disheartening” to many of the officers.
He is hoping state Sen. Adam Hinds will visit the station and see for himself, and maybe Lanesborough, too, can secure funding for a new station in the future.

College presses to repair Bo lab

College presses to repair Bo lab

02/01/2018

The College of Marin’s life and earth sciences department is urging the administration and board of trustees to repair the marine lab that has sat derelict beside the Bolinas Lagoon for more than a decade. Administrators have previously argued that a state law barred them from investing in the lab, but the department challenged that legal argument in a resolution submitted in December.

The department’s recommendation marks a potential sea change in a conversation around the lab that has drawn local support for community ownership. Though it has been on the table before, a conversation sparked last summer around the possibility of the college transferring ownership to the village or a nonprofit that could better access funds for repairs.

The site, which includes a two-story house, a water storage tank, a shed and a public dock, has been closed since 2006 due to a number of critical health and safety issues, including black mold infestations.

“I think everyone in the community can agree that we do not want the lab to sit abandoned any longer,” said Ralph Camiccia, who chairs the county’s Bolinas Lagoon Advisory Council. Mr. Camiccia is also part of a subcommittee formed by the Bolinas Community Public Utility District at the recommendation of Supervisor Dennis Rodoni to explore the possibility of community ownership.

The department’s resolution includes letters of support from Bolinas stakeholders, including the school district, the Rod & Boat Club and the lagoon advisory council. Local conservation organizations such as the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin as well as the acting superintendents of the Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate Recreation Area also contributed letters.

The college’s president, David Wain Coon, said he received the department’s recommendation and is reviewing it with legal counsel.

Back in 2016, the college included the renovation on a list of projects that could be undertaken with funds generated by a bond measure, which ultimately generated $265 million in funds.

Yet after voters approved the measure, the college decided it could not use bond funds to repair the lab, Mr. Coon said at a meeting last October. According to him, a state law called the Field Act prohibits using state funds for the repair or reconstruction of school buildings within 50 feet of faultlines. Mr. Coon said the lab fell within that distance of the San Andreas fault.

But the department’s letter challenged this reasoning on a number of counts. First, it said the lab is exempt from the restrictions of the Field Act, which explicitly does not regulate “outdoor science classrooms.” Second, it argues that the college has not properly determined that the lab is indeed within 50 feet of a faultline.

Perhaps most importantly, the letter said the Field Act does not regulate community college buildings at all. Those are regulated by a 1972 law called the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act, the letter states, but that act applies only to school buildings located on campuses. The resolution urged the college to use existing funds generated by the 2016 bond measure to start repairs.

The overwhelming support for the department’s call to keep the lab within the college’s ownership does not come out of the blue. A public meeting about the future of the lab last October was dominated by people with ties to the college who urged the administration not to let go of the lab but to restore it for college use. Many stated how influential it had been in their own careers as marine biologists or described the importance of field-based education.

But at the time, Mr. Coon said he wanted to find a “win-win” for the college and the community. He described two ways forward: either the college could surplus the property and transfer ownership to a new entity, or it could keep the property and sign a long-term lease with a nonprofit that would be able to raise enough money to rebuild the lab. He called the latter the “preferred option.”

The life and earth sciences department said it hopes to collaborate with the community, government entities and conservation groups, stating in its letter that such “chances for relationship-building will lead to internship and job opportunities in very competitive fields.”

‘Waltons’ fans plan a replica house to serve as a B&B

‘Waltons’ fans plan a replica house to serve as a B&B

Waltons replica
 

SCHUYLER — Owners of the childhood home of the late Earl Hamner Jr. are planning to build a replica of the two-story home made famous in “The Waltons,” Hamner’s signature television creation.

The house will have a similar porch and first floor as the home portrayed in the popular 1970s TV show, said Ray Castro, who co-owns the Waltons Hamner House with Carole Johnson, both longtime fans of the show. When finished, the replica house also will serve as a bed and breakfast, he said.

In December, the pair purchased the property next to the Hamner house, known as the Giannini house. That home was in the family of Doris Giannini Hamner, who married Earl Hamner Sr. in 1921 and inspired the character Olivia Walton in “The Waltons.”

The two originally had planned to restore the Giannini home. Castro said they ultimately decided to demolish the house because there were termites and black mold in it, and part of the foundation had collapsed. The house was built in 1910 and had been vacant for about 10 years, Castro said.

“After much consideration to save the house, it just made sense to demolish it and start new,” he said.

The replica house will be built on the former site of the Giannini house, Castro said.

The Waltons Hamner House, which is at 128 Tree Top Loop near Rockfish River Road in Schuyler, is where Earl Hamner Jr. grew up as the eldest of eight children, Castro said. Hamner based “The Waltons” TV show, which ran from 1971 to 1981, on his experiences growing up in Schuyler.

Castro said fans come from all over the world to visit the Hamner house, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. But the Hamner house wasn’t familiar to fans because it is smaller than the house depicted in the TV series, which was shot mainly in Los Angeles, Castro said.

Beatle Tapscott, owner of Tapscott Excavation & Landscape in Scottsville, said he demolished the Giannini house and preserved a lot of the material, including doors.

Castro and Johnson are planning a groundbreaking celebration for the replica house at noon March 4 at the site of the former Giannini house. Castro said the goal is to have the debris gone by the end of the month, in time for the groundbreaking.

Minnesota resident Stephen Page is a fan turned volunteer who was in the area to visit the Hamner house for a few days last week to help Castro with different tasks around the Hamner house, such as caring for a 5-month-old puppy, Reckless, named after a dog in “The Waltons.” Castro adopted the puppy from a Puerto Rico-based animal welfare organization after Hurricane Maria. The light-tan puppy is the newest member of the Hamner house and part of the vision to make visiting it feel like visiting “The Waltons,” Castro said.

“When the fans come here, it’s really going to be the Waltons Mountain experience,” he said.

Page said he supports the concept of the replica house and the bed-and-breakfast.

“I’m sure I’ll stay there once or twice in my lifetime,” he said.

Hamner was a prolific writer and his writing was entertaining for the entire family, Page said.

“I think that’s important because families tend to go their own ways with all their distractions,” he said.

Castro said the family drama show appealed to many.

“That’s what we’re trying to recreate here — a place where fans can come to and call home,” Castro said

Overcrowding, mold among housing issues in Hatchet Lake

Overcrowding, mold among housing issues in Hatchet Lake

By Bryan Eneas

March 2, 2018 – 11:00am

There aren’t enough homes to go around for residents of the Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation, and the houses which do exist are often overcrowded and in need of repair.

During a tour of the community, local media were introduced to Jonas Sha’oulle, an operator at the local water treatment plant who shares his house with 21 other family members.

“We keep it busy, me and my wife, busy here and there, providing food,” Sha’oulle said. “We help each other.”

While the house may be crowded now, it wasn’t always that way. Sha’oulle’s house was built in 1992, when it was big enough for him, his wife and their two daughters. The family has since grown in size, and Sha’oulle said he wasn’t about to kick his daughters and their children out with nowhere to go. He said they have tried to apply for homes being constructed in the community, but they haven’t been successful in obtaining a residence yet.

Despite the crowded conditions, the grandfather said he enjoys coming home from work and spending time with his family.

“They all run to you every time you come in, and when you’ve been out for a couple days it makes you feel wanted,” he said.

Overcrowding is not the only issue in the Sha’oulle household; black mold is present, causing some respiratory issues with the younger children in the residence. The sewer backed up about 15 years ago, he said, leaving several inches of dirty water in the family’s basement. Sha’oulle said he believes the flooding created the black mold problem present in the house today.

Mold is also growing in an unfinished addition to the Sha’oulle house which the band started in November, 2017. Sha’oulle said the band had left the project unfinished because funding was no longer available to complete the work. He said he had not been given any timeline as to when the work would be completed on the addition.

The family’s lone bathroom is also in need of renovation. Parts of the floor are soft and spongey, and a minor fire in the basement caused further damage. The wall between the toilet and bathtub was bulging like a bubble waiting to burst.

The situation has gotten so bad one of Sha’oulle’s daughters said she was scared to be living in the house.

Pierre Kkaikka, 50, lives with 17 other family members in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom single level house.

“All of my kids live in this house, so I ask my band for help,” Kkaikka said. “There’s a lot of people like that in this community.”

Kkaikka said he hasn’t been able to find steady employment and uses cash poker games and social assistance as sources of income. He said he’s been lucky enough to win a skidoo and a boat, but he’s also endured losses which come with gambling. In order to provide for his family, keep the children happy and put food on the table, Kkaikka said he hunts moose and caribou.

He said he would like to help his children find houses and move out, taking a bit of pressure off of him, but there simply aren’t any houses being built.

“If I get my kids a house, it’s okay, my kids can go live by themselves, but they [can’t] so they’re just staying here with me,” Kkaikka said.

Leadership working to support better housing

Chief Bart Tsannie acknowledged the community had challenges when it comes to the distribution of houses in Hatchet Lake.

“I know we’re building quite a few houses this year but still, not enough for the members here,” he said, noting 10 houses are currently under construction but they have already received 100 applications for them.

The chief of the Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation said he hopes to do what’s best for the band members with the help of both the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) and Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

“What you see here in our community, it’s the same across the north… it’s all the same,” PAGC Vice Chief Joseph Tsannie said.

Joseph said he would like to see meaningful investments in northern communities from companies who invest heavily in extracting resources from the North. The province overall may have benefitted from the industry, but the same opportunities haven’t been available to northern communities.

PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte said housing is a challenge northern communities face, which he continues to address with the both levels of government.

The 2018 federal budget, tabled Feb. 27, included $600 million over three years to “support housing on reserve as part of a 10-year First Nations Housing Strategy that is being developed with First Nations.”

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Vice Chief David Pratt acknowledged both the federal financial commitment and the need to address the situation sooner rather than later. To do so, he said, the FSIN will put pressure on both provincial and federal governments. Pratt called on the government of Saskatchewan to end jurisdictional disputes and support Indigenous communities. Although First Nations are supported primarily by the federal government, for Pratt, the provincial government still has a responsibility to “do what’s right” for northern Indigenous communities.

“The provincial government needs to get it, that communities like Hatchet Lake, Fond Du Lac and Black Lake, those are Saskatchewan communities as well,” Pratt said.

larongeNOW reached out to Indigenous Services Canada to find out if any commitments had been made or requested by the Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation to address the band’s housing situation. No response was provided by deadline; this story will be updated to reflect their position if it is made available.

Washington property owner given extension to make repairs to building

Washington property owner given extension to make repairs to building

286 North Franklin
 

Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter

The house at 286 N. Franklin St. in Washington

The mother of a Washington landlord facing multiple building code citations at a North Franklin Street property cursed and used a racial slur while at court for a hearing.

Loretta Russo appeared at District Judge Robert Redlinger’s court for a hearing on three citations her son, Mark Russo, received last year for a property at 286 N. Franklin St. The hearing was continued for 45 days, since no repairs had been made to the building. Mark Russo also is the owner of a building at 15 N. Main St. that collapsed last year, trapping a tenant.

When the city code enforcement officer, Ron McIntyre, approached Loretta Russo outside the courtroom to explain that her son had 45 days to get the repairs done, she started cursing at him. She accused him of not answering her calls and not telling her what work needs to be done at the building. She said that neither McIntyre nor his citations were specific enough about what repairs will bring the building to compliance, saying that “plumbing hazard” is too vague.

The plumbing citation states the sump pump on the property was draining into the sanitary sewer storm drain. The second citation was for a furnace that needs to be replaced, and the third was for a garage on the property that is an “unsafe structure.” The citation for the garage said it “may collapse” and there’s water in the basement of the garage, along with black mold.

McIntyre said no one lives in the garage and that the home is still safe for the tenants living there. He told Loretta Russo Thursday her son needed to hire professionals to come in and make the repairs within 45 days because the tenants are complaining.

Loretta responded by using a racial slur to describe the tenants and said that she and her son are “broke.” When asked why she was at the hearing instead of her son, she said he was sick with the flu.

Mark Russo faces more than 30 citations stemming from alleged violations at six rental properties, including the former three-story apartment building at 15 N. Main St., which collapsed last year, trapping a tenant for more than nine hours. Officials inspected the other five rental properties, including the one on North Franklin, in the weeks following the collapse.

The citations involving the building at 15 N. Main are still pending while litigation proceeds over who is responsible for the collapse and who will pay for the building’s demolition.