Park Avenue residents to see hike

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 21, 2003

Citing increased operations costs, Lawrence County CAO officials say increases in rent at several apartment complexes it manages are justified.

A misunderstanding over a marketing flier, officials said, caused many residents of the Park Avenue Apartments to fear unnecessarily. The flier reflected a monthly rental price for new residents that is much higher than the rates current residents pay.

Carl Palmer said he and other residents, many of whom are on fixed incomes, saw the flier and feared a sudden increase.

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"We've heard so many stories, and we thought our rent was going to go up all at once," he said. "We were scared."

Upon seeing the fliers, many current residents feared a large increase in the rent, and representatives from the CAO attended a Friday morning tenant council meeting to explain the situation to the residents and calm their fears. CAO representatives explained the rent would increase, but not as much as what the fliers had probably led them to believe.

The CAO took over the management of Park Avenue Apartments and several other area apartments on March 1. Shortly afterward, Kline said, the organization sought help from the Columbus-based Sawmill Road Management Company.

Representatives from Sawmill Road placed fliers designed to market the complex to potential new tenants near the front entrance of Park Avenue Apartments as well as other places such as churches and businesses. The fliers stated that monthly rent at the apartments would be $350 for a one-bedroom and $425 for a two-bedroom. However, this rent, Kline said, is only for new tenants.

Upon hearing the news that the tenants were frightened, Park Avenue manager Dan Palmer said he personally delivered letters to the tenants to set the record straight.

Although Dan Palmer would not say exactly what rates current residents pay, he said the former management company, RLJ Management in Columbus, made "considerable concessions" in an attempt to fill the apartments. Palmer said the concessions were significantly reduced rental prices.

CAO director of housing and community development Ralph Kline said current residents' rates will, however, increase by $15 per month at Park Avenue Apartments.

Rent will be increased by $30 per month at other CAO-managed properties, including Storms Creek and Roosevelt apartments

Ninth and 10th streets.

Park Avenue manager Dan Palmer said rising operating costs are the cause of the rent increases.

One of those costs will be a new roof at Park Avenue. The building's roof has a leak, especially affecting tenants on the seventh floor. The CAO has worked with several companies from Huntington, W.Va., Ashland, Ky., Portsmouth, Gallipolis and Coal Grove to examine the problems. From those companies' observations, the roof has no obvious holes and finding the source of the leak could be difficult. However, condensation building up around several blocks of five air conditioners could be the cause.

The apartments have had considerable renovation recently, but when the architect looked at the building in 1997, a new roof was not recommended, Palmer said.

Also, utility costs have increased for the CAO, which pays the utility bills for the building's lobby, hallways and second floor where the CAO Senior Citizen's Center is located, Palmer said.

Any time rent is increased, Kline said, tenants will receive formal notification well in advance, Kline said.

Carl Palmer still expressed concern about other costs that many of the building's residents are experiencing, such as higher insurance costs and increases in utility bills.

"When you get older, you get concerned," he said.

Kline responded by saying that the CAO could try to help the residents with financial concerns such as utility bills with its home energy assistance program.