Washington apartment complex closed
WASHINGTON, Iowa (GTNS) — Former Goncho Apartments residents Nels Miller and Cassondra Davis stand outside the building Thursday morning shortly before the building was sealed for heath and safety reasons.
Even though a packet of papers that was left on their doors told them not to, tenants of Goncho Apartments moved some of their belongings out to vehicles this morning as they tried to meet the 10 a.m. deadline to be out of their apartments.
According to tenant Nels Miller, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, the residents were given a packet of papers from the Washington Police Department, ordering them to be out of their apartments before 10 a.m. The first page of the packet states that as a result of testing, the building has been declared a dangerous building and off limits. The packet reported an unacceptable level of methamphetamine residue and “numerous” city and state fire and electrical code violations. The building contains 16 apartments, and about 30 people lived there.
“Until the building is rehabilitated it is simply not safe to occupy,” the information signed by Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman, said. “We must ask you to leave your apartment and not take anything with you. It is important to know that contaminated items from methamphetamine residue can be harmful to your health and others.”
The packet said anyone found on the property after it has been secured will be arrested and prosecuted for trespass.
A press release issued at 9 a.m. Thursday reported that prior to any further occupancy the building must be cleaned and the methamphetamine levels tested in all areas, as well as the fire and electrical violations addressed.
Standing in the doorway of Goncho Thursday morning, possibly for the last time, Miller and his friend Cassondra Davis discussed their future plans with other tenants. Both are disabled and walk with canes. Miller has an 11-year-old son. Neither have any place to go. Even though the packet said the building can be rehabilitated, Miller and Davis feel the evacuation is permanent.
“I was living adjacent to the apartment that had the meth lab it in, and I have an 11-year-old son,” Miller said. “I was upset. Last week they tested my apartment and the hallways. Mine wasn’t as high as the apartment with the meth lab, but it was high enough. I have a son who has ADHD and we’ve been wondering, because he has been acting out sometimes, if it isn’t the residue coming over.”
Miller said his son has a place to stay, but he doesn’t. Davis said she has called around looking for a place to stay, without luck. The information from the city included contact information for charitable organizations in town.
“I’ve called churches, I’ve called the Red Cross, ever since the first notice was put on the walls,” Davis said. “No one will help.”
Miller said he talked with the Red Cross, and they declined to help because this didn’t happen as a result of a disaster. Miller disagrees.
“It is a disaster because someone cooked meth in here,” he said.
Both also claimed the living conditions in the building were poor.
Jarod Miller, owner of Goncho Apartments, could not be reached for comment on his plans for the building.
City of Washington administrator Brent Hinson said Miller has worked with the city during the investigation.
“Over the past several weeks, we have been testing various parts of the building for meth residue,” Hinson said. “Those tests came back high, so we have a significant health and safety issue, and we are trying to remedy that in the best way possible.”
He said the city only just received the test results. He said because the levels were “very high” the tenants were notified. He said the original plan was to evacuate the tenants Wednesday. He admits this is short notice, but said the situation is a “significant health and safety issue.”
“Everything that is in these apartments is our entire lives,” Davis said. “To tell us we can’t take anything … I understand they are contaminated, but this is our life. We can’t just throw it out, come back later and hope that it is here.
“Just because we are poor and we‘re low income and 90 percent of us are on Social Security, it doesn’t make it right that we’re evicted because the landlord hasn’t done his job,” Davis said. “Sure, someone cooked meth in the building, but the fire code violations – he has had this building for several years. You would have thought he would have done something by now. All the way around it is a screwed-up situation.”
Hinson said the city is working to help the residents find places to stay and items to replace the things that have to be left behind. He said individual apartments will be tested and if an individual apartment tests safe, the residents can retrieve his or her items without decontamination.
Washington County HACAP operations manager RenElla Crawford said HACAP is putting tenants who have nowhere to go in a local motel for one night. She said Fthe program will work further today on finding clothing and temporary shelter. Tenants needing assistance can call 319-653-7275.
Hinson said the actions of the landlord will determine how soon the building can be made habitable. He said the issues had to be addressed before the building can be declared safe.
“They are definitely the victims here,” Hinson said, referring to the residents. “We are trying to make this as problem free as we can. We know inherently there is a problem. They are already victims of meth exposure. It is very negative to human health to be exposed to the levels we found.”
On Dec. 6, members of an intercounty drug task force arrested three people in connection with meth manufacture. During the arrests, two were arrested in a car with an active meth lab on the south side of the square in Washington. Shortly after the arrests, police conducted a search warrant at an apartment in Goncho. The apartment was declared off limits Dec. 21, after the amount of methamphetamine was found to be 50 percent higher than safe levels.
According to police reports, Ronald Wayne Boileau, 50, of Washington, had been charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and three counts of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Kyle Joseph Boileau, 26, and Brianna Kay Hole, 23, both of Wayland, are charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Ronald Boileau later committed suicide in the Washington County Jail.
Hinson reported the tenant of the apartment had not been arrested. He said the person most directly responsible for the meth in the building is “deceased.”