Forty percent of Colony Apartments units given the all-clear by Columbia officials

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Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 8:39 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Forty percent of people living at Colony Apartments will be able to return to their homes on Friday night.

Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins said 119 of the nearly 300 units had been cleared as of 6 p.m. Friday evening.

They had been under a complex-wide evacuation order after tenants reported multiple issues earlier this week while police were investigating a murder on the property.

For the past three days, Columbia Code Enforcement and the Columbia-Richland Fire Department inspected have inspected all units.

Jenkins said fire marshals were specifically looking for any life-threatening safety issues.

All 119 units that have been cleared are free of gas leaks and have heat and water, as well as working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Residents had been without water and heat for several days over the Christmas holiday.

Officials are working to ensure that all remaining units have heat and water as well.

Fire marshals will continue those inspections on Saturday, Jenkins said.

“We have to make sure we walk through everything to make sure that it is restored,” he said. “I do know the city of Columbia had their crew out here to reconnect those water lines so, from my understanding, they should be functioning. But we’re just walking in just to make sure.”

During inspections, officials found that several units did not have working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors.

According to Jenkins, more than 10 minor gas leaks were discovered on the property during inspections over the past few days.

A plumber made repairs to those gas leaks on Friday, he added.

Now that officials have given the all-clear for those units, it is now up to property management, The Monroe Group, to call individual families and let them know that they are free to come back.

“I know it’s very inconveniencing for these people,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully they can get their life back on track, get back into their apartments and keep on living.”

For the remaining families, management has extended hotel vouchers for another night.

The Monroe Group has not responded to requests for comment.

Andrea Franklin returned to her apartment on Friday to pick up some of her baby’s things. She did not feel that the conditions at the hotel were sanitary and slept at her grandmother’s house on Thursday night.

Franklin is skeptical that things will change at Colony Apartments when officials give the all-clear unless there is a change in management.

“Management at the top is not going to keep up with that,” she said. “They could be doing, the Fire Department, police, marshals, all that could be doing their job right now, but when they leave, it’s probably going to get back to the same way that it was before just because of the management at the top. They don’t care about us.”

Officials hope to have 50 percent of the units cleared by Saturday evening.

Jenkins did not provide a timeline for when the remaining 50 percent of units could be cleared.

Once all tenants have returned, the Columbia-Richland Fire Department plans to do follow-up inspections in the coming months.

Columbia mayor Daniel Rickenmann’s office said that city leadership plans to hold a meeting next week to discuss the path forward for Colony Apartments, and what steps the city can take to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again.

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