After Multiple Warnings Mountain Village Closes Telluride Apartments
Mold and Other Violations Remained Unfixed
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Most of the families living in the privately owned Telluride Apartments in Mountain Village have vacated the complex after an industrial hygienist recently determined that living conditions there were unsafe.
“These buildings represent an ongoing risk to anyone that occupies them,” wrote industrial hygienist Christopher Lakin in a report commissioned by the building’s owner and obtained by The Watch through a public records request.
“Although some units may appear to be relatively contaminant free, evaluation of units with similar features suggests that this is a temporary condition. We anticipate that continued operation of these buildings in their current state will lead to future damage and worsening occupant exposure.”
The mass exodus of mostly immigrant families living in the apartments, some for many years, came about one year after the Town of Mountain Village shut down one-third of the 30-unit complex due to dangerous mold conditions, according to Building Official Chad Root.
The town took that measure two years after first declaring the complex dangerous in July 2008. That determination came after the town conducted an inspection of the premises after learning of un-permitted construction taking place there, Root said.
At that time the town directed the owners to hire a certified industrial hygienist to inspect the building for mold, ordered the remediation of that mold, and compelled the correction of other building code deficiencies. Those deficiencies included a leaking roof, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems problems, and inoperable: fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, emergency exit signs and emergency lighting, among other problems.
While the effects of mold on human health range can range from causing no apparent symptoms to allergies and asthma, “[T]he existence of the adverse affects of exposure to molds and damp indoor spaces is a foregone conclusion,” Lakin wrote.
“People are so scared, they think they’re dying,” said Emo Overall, outreach and program director for One Telluride, a group working to strengthen the relationship between Telluride’s immigrant and receiving communities.
Although Overall, who has been working to help many of the Latino tenants find other housing, said that rashes and asthma have been prevalent among tenants, some worry about other effects.
“Some of them really think that they have mold growing inside their lungs,” she said.
The Telluride Apartments’ property owners, among whom John Bosley of Sheridan, Wyo., is the principal, were again directed to remediate the units last summer after inspectors returned to find a heavy smell of bleach and paint indicating a superficial attempt at cleaning up the mold had been made.
“These buildings have been subject to some remedial efforts in attempt to restore them to good use. However, the use of biocides, household cleansers and paint is not sufficient to restore them to good use,” Lakin stated.
Root again returned to inspect the complex earlier this year to find the conditions there the same or worse.
“I expected them to go in, pull up carpets and start on mold remediation,” he said. Instead, he found the apartments in the same state of disrepair, save for the stench emanating from dirty dishes left in the sink when tenants vacated the units condemned last year.
Because those original units were just closed up and left to sit for months on end, “They really just caused the mold to escalate,” he said.
Lakin’s report (dated May 3) recommended that occupancy in nine of the units be terminated immediately if it had not been already, and that any remaining tenants vacate the premises before winter.
“There is sufficient evidence to suggest that occupants have been exposed to abnormal concentrations of mold as a result of their occupancy,” he wrote, later stating that the buildings would need comprehensive remediation and restoration including a new roof system, siding, windows and better ventilation.
According to a representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office, Bosley, who also manages the complex through his own property management company, began trying to secure financing for the remediation project following the apartment closures last year – but so far that funding has remained elusive.
The U.S.D.A. made the original loan that enabled the construction of the complex and remains the lender.
“To my knowledge he has actively sought funding from every resource they could possibly seek,” said U.S.D.A. Rural Development Colorado State Office Housing Programs Director Jamie Spakow.
Although Spakow said she did not have information on the cost, “The remediation of the problem requires significant resources,” she said.
When reached by telephone Bosley declined to comment.
In the meantime another investor is said to be looking at buying the complex, said Mountain Village Mayor Bob Delves.
Additionally, the town is doing what it can to find funding that may be used to make needed repairs at the town-owned Village Court Apartments and potentially at the Telluride Apartments.
The VCA complex has already undergone significant remediation for its worst mold problems, but additional work for which the town does not currently have the money still needs to be done.
Representatives of the town met with state and federal housing officials last week to tour both complexes, and an openly hostile representative of Bosley Management demanded business cards from everyone before allowing them inside the Telluride Apartments.
Members of the media who attended the tour waited outside.
“The press is not welcome on the tour,” she said.