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Apartment tenants concerned with safety

Apartment tenants concerned with safety

October 18th, 2017 by Nicole Roberts in Local News

100 Lafayette Street in Jefferson City as seen in August 2017.

Photo by Shelby Kardell /News Tribune.

Capital City Apartments residents voiced safety concerns during Tuesday's Jefferson City Housing Authority meeting.

Donna Valentin has lived at Capital City Apartments — affordable housing operated by the Housing Authority — for about four years and said there have been domestic and gun violence issues at the apartments. She described one incident where her daughter's window was shot out and another where she walked outside her apartment and noticed several bullets outside her door. She said she later learned someone shot off guns the night before.

"Do you know how scary that is, to not hear gunfire, to condition my brain so I tune out gunfire?" Valentin said. "I'm terrified of sleeping there. I don't feel safe in my own apartment, and that's not a way to live."

All three residents who spoke Tuesday said they have filed complaints with the property manager but feel they are targeted by other residents because of those complaints.

After Sharlotte Minor filed complaints, she said, her car was broken into several times and windows were smashed, while Tameka Strickland described human feces left outside her apartment after she filed a complaint. Both residents said they believe these actions were due to their complaints.

"Nobody feels safe, and if we go to the office, if they see us come out of the office building, we get targeted," said Minor, who has lived at Capital City Apartments for about three years. "We don't feel safe anymore. I don't feel safe in my home anymore."

Capt. Doug Shoemaker, spokesman for the Jefferson City Police Department, said the number of police calls in the 500 block of East Elm Street has decreased this year compared to last year. The department received about 150 calls last year, ranging from traffic stops and wellbeing checks to ordinance violations and disturbances. This year, Shoemaker estimates the police department has received about two-thirds of that number.

The Housing Authority receives regular reports from JCPD on activities in all public housing properties, Housing Authority Executive Director Cynthia Quetsch said.

The residents also said they were worried about children playing in the streets, a lack of available parking and spiders in the apartments. Quetsch said she was surprised by the reports of bugs because there are monthly pest control inspections.

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The Housing Authority Board of Commissioners said the staff will meet with the police department and discuss residents' concerns. Questch said she anticipates letters will go out to all Capital City Apartments tenants, reminding them of their lease agreement terms.

For serious lease violations, such as drug possession, tenants receive notice to vacate the property within three days. For other lease violations, the Housing Authority sends warning letters. If the tenants do not comply, the Housing Authority files an eviction action in court.

"The only way we can really protect people is by enforcing the lease across the board and get rid of the people who are violating the lease," Quetsch said.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Tom Scheppers, property owner of 100 Lafayette St., agreed to sign a revised rehabilitation agreement, moving the East Capitol Avenue Urban Renewal Plan forward.

"Things will be progressing how you guys would like to see and how I would like to see," Scheppers said.

In May, the Housing Authority granted Scheppers a time extension to sign a rehabilitation agreement because he wanted to submit a Planned Unit Development plan for his Lafayette Street property and three vacant lots on State Street. When the extension ended in mid-August, the Housing Authority did not grant him another time extension.

At last month's meeting, Scheppers presented his own draft agreement due to concerns he had with the Housing Authority's agreement.

Quetsch said the revised rehabilitation agreement is a mixture between the Housing Authority's original agreement and Scheppers' proposed agreement.

Scheppers will have until March 20 to make changes to his Lafayette property, including installing and maintaining windows; repairing the exterior of the building; and removing dead weeds, bushes and trees. He said he has already started working on the Lafayette Street property by removing a tree and ordering new windows.

His tentative goal is to open a restaurant in the building, but he first has to submit a PUD plan. Senior Planner Eric Barron said he has not received the PUD plan from Scheppers yet.

In December, the Jefferson City Council approved the urban renewal zone, bordered by East State Street, Lafayette Street, East High Street — including some parcels on the south side of East High Street — and Adams Street.

The area was considered blighted last year because properties' conditions were deteriorating and some properties were declared abandoned by city ordinances.