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Residents at Willow Lakes Apartments rally for repairs

8:40 PM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A half-century old Jacksonville apartment complex has seen better days.

The Willow Lakes Apartments in Arlington, which spans three blocks, has had problems with crime. A quick online search shows that a father of three was killed in Willow Lakes in 2010, a double shooting in 2011 killed two, and in July 2012 a man was hospitalized after being stabbed nearby.

But the units, which were bought by Willow Lakes Apartments of Jacksonville, LLC in 2009 for $6.5 million, are also run down. And residents at the Willow Lakes Apartments say they're struggling to have basic repair needs met.

One problem; Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop you'd want to drink.

Residents contacted the On Your Side team for help, saying that water has been pouring from the ground for months with no solution in sight. Neighbors say the water smells funny, and the leak is a waste.

"It has sort of a sulphur smell to it," Willow Lakes apartments resident Jonathan Taylor told First Coast News, as water was bubbling up from the ground.

"Look at that, man! It speaks for itself. It's been like that for three months," said Taylor who lives a few doors down. "It's an ecological disaster, man. It's a waste of water! I want it fixed! I want it fixed, man!"

Groundwater hydrologist Vito Russo with the St. John's Water Management District said the leak appears to be a diffused seep, slowly permeating the ground also making it soggy. The water also trickles through the minds of other neighbors.

"I know that there's kids that play around here, and I'm always concerned if they get into something like that," said Michael T. Dowdell, another resident who lives near the water leak. "I'm sure it's not healthy at all."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the sprawling complex, a 21-year-old single mother contacted the On Your Side team about her apartment being, "infested with rats and roaches." The tenant also claimed her unit does not have working electricity.

Our investigation found that the mother of a 1-year-old has been without heat during this cold snap, and since most of the outlets and the breaker box in her apartment do not work, she cannot use a space heater. The tenant claimed she has been calling property managers for over a week with no response.

Willow Lakes Apartments Property Manager Brian Naples explained he understands residents' concerns and said they're working to make much-needed repairs, but they inherited a lot of problems. According to Naples, the source of the water is a slab leak under a building, and he assures residents it is fresh water and not sewage. Naples also said property management is awaiting approval from the Willow Lakes Apartments of Jacksonville, LLC to choose a contractor to start working on the leak.

As for what took so long? Naples said they didn't know about it until the first week of December because of a recent staff overhaul, and the previous landlord might not have known about it. The work on the water leak could start next week and cost up to $2,000.

On the issue of the tenant without power, property management has offered to relocate the woman to another apartment, but she was concerned about being moved to "the back of the apartments," citing known drug activity and crime. According to Naples, the electrical issue in her apartment is more involved than what a traditional electrician can handle, and in order to make repairs, she will have to relocate temporarily.

Naples said residents will see no changes in rent.

The On Your Side team will follow up with the Willow Lakes Apartments owners and property managers the first week of January 2013 for an update on the situation.

First Coast News

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