By Kathryn White
A half-dozen residents from the Viña Apartments tenants union met with City Council Member Darrell Watson Nov. 9 to gauge his interest in helping them advocate for improvements at the Elyria-based apartment complex. In the meeting facilitated by Alfonso Espino, a community organizer for the GES Coalition, Viña residents described concerns they have with Syringa Property Management, which took over management of the property earlier this year, and with the building’s owner, Columbia Ventures.
Resident concerns included what they described as a lack of timely repairs to the building’s front door and accessibility mechanism; an unacceptable distance between the building entrance and designated accessible parking across the street; tenant ledgers that are impossible to interpret; and a format for utility bills that does not include the details required by organizations that provide financial assistance for utility costs.
Utility billing has been a source of tenant frustration for several months running. Viña maintains a master account with Xcel and uses a submetering company called eGauge to track utility usage at the individual apartment level.
Watson, who had just completed 100 days in office, listened, asked questions, took notes and committed to following up.
“After listening to residents at Viña Apartments, I was concerned with what I heard. I look forward to making sure management is responsive to residents’ questions and concerns so Viña is a safe place for folks to live,” Watson said.
Since the tenants union was formed over the summer, residents and management have met monthly to discuss resident concerns. And still, said resident Jessica Neckien, the front door took nearly eight months of incremental repairs to be fully operational.
Residents received notice Nov. 28 that a new third-party utility billing service, Conservice, has been hired.