Columbia city officials looking into conditions at Colony Apartments

Multiple agencies/departments are involved with the investigation.
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Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 1:31 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Multiple local agencies and Columbia city officials are looking into the Colony Apartments amid several issues, including poor living conditions and crime.

Those issues came to a head on Tuesday night when all tenants were forced to evacuate after living without adequate water pressure or heat for several days over the Christmas holiday.

While investigating a murder at the complex that happened hours earlier, residents alerted Columbia police officers of the conditions.

City leadership, along with Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook and Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, then deemed all units unsafe and issued the evacuation order.

“I think for us continuing is to really sit down with the ownership group and come up with a strategy,” Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann said. “This has been decades of issues in that complex and we’ve got to change it. We’re no longer going to allow this to continue to operate the way it is.”

Residents tell WIS they notified management about the issues and received no response.

After notifying the Monroe Group, the complex’s management company, on December 9 of a water leak, Rickenmann said the appropriate steps were not taken to fix the problem.

Last night, the city hired a third-party contractor to do that work.

“The city has taken those steps on an emergency basis today and has crews here that are doing this emergency repair,” Holbrook said.

The city will bill back the property owner for that work because it owns the water system, Rickenmann said.

City leaders initially had hoped that most people would be able to return to their apartments safely by Thursday, but due to a gas leak on the property that happened Wednesday evening, that is unlikely, according to Jenkins.

“We want to make sure that we preserve life,” he said. “Also I think this should be a message to all of the landlords out there that this kind of stuff is not going to be tolerated.”

Jenkins said without heat, there were concerns that some tenants were using their stoves to warm up their apartments.

Rickenmann said the ownership company was “unresponsive and disorganized” when contacted by city leadership Tuesday night.

City officials are working in tandem with the Monroe Group to determine how many residents are affected by the utility issues, according to a spokesperson with the City of Columbia. A master resident list was not provided to city officials.

A number of hotel vouchers were given out by the Monroe Group.

Rickenmann believes pressure from the city to get tenants out of the cold and into hotel rooms was crucial to finding this temporary solution.

Throughout the day Wednesday, Columbia Code Enforcement, along with the Columbia-Richland Fire Department, inspected each unit for any potential violations or quality of life issues.

Columbia Water was also at the property.

“If we enter a unit and we find that it’s what we call a health, life, safety issue and it’s not inhabitable, then we would not allow somebody to return to that,” Holbrook said. “Our goal is to get people back in their units. Obviously, it’s very disruptive and we are very sensitive of that, and we want to get people back where they’re comfortable, but we have to make sure that it’s safe.”

WIS asked Rickenmann what steps could be taken to ensure residents do not have to deal with anything like this in the future.

“We’re exploring all options, to be quite frank,” he said. “We’re going to explore all options that we are to make sure that we don’t ever see a situation like this again.”

When pressed for specifics, Rickenmann said it is unclear at this point.

“I don’t know what that all means. I mean obviously, we have code violations that need to be addressed, we’re going to look at legal options at what we can do to make sure that the apartment complex is held accountable for these issues.”

Rickenmann stopped short of suggesting Colony Apartments should be condemned.

“I think that the bones are there,” he said. “It’s about making sure things are fixed and addressed in a timely manner.”

WIS requested code violations that Columbia Police has observed at the property over the last two years. That information was not immediately available.

WIS reached out to the Monroe Group on Wednesday for comment but did not receive a response.

Holbrook said the majority of recent enforcement issues and complaints at Colony Apartments have had to do with things like trash overflowing, rodents, and ownership not maintaining the grounds.

Crime Report

A newly obtained report from Columbia Police shows a combined total of 165 crimes were reported at Colony Apartments in 2021 and 2022.

A crime report provided by CPD for Colony Apartments in 2021 and 2022.
A crime report provided by CPD for Colony Apartments in 2021 and 2022.(CPD)

A map provided by Columbia Police shows each location where a call was reported to emergency officials over the last two years.

The most recent incident is the murder of Miasia James of Columbia. Officials say the shooting happened just before noon on Tuesday.

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