City inspectors say Ralston Towers still not up to code

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Following recent issues over heat and hot water at the historic Ralston Towers in Columbus, city leaders now know several units inside the building are not up to code.

The city's director of building inspection, John Hudgison, told council 24 units inside the towers remain without heating access. Based on these findings, Hudgison told councilors his department has issued 24 citations to Ralston's owners and management.

In his presentation, Hudgison said the building's problem with hot water surfaced January 2, 2018.
"The boiler had gone out in the basement, which means at that point, all residents in that building did not have hot water," Hudgison said.

A day later, he said department received calls that other Ralston residents also lost their heating.

These issues forced Mayor Teresa Tomlinson to evacuate those tenants and have them stay at a local motel, at the owner's expense. As of Tuesday morning, Hudgison said many of these problem units are still too cold for anyone to live in.

"There were still 24 units, even with space heaters, that did not meet the 68 degree threshold," he said. 

Columbus Fire and EMS officials also offered their insight into the property's troubles.
While management did install a new fire alarm system, replacing one dating back to the 1940s, Chief Ricky Shores said the towers are also still technically in violation of National Fire Prevention Association standards.

The reason, he said, is because the company that installed the system said it hasn't been paid for its work.

"We do not have the record of completion from the installer, which is required," Shores said. "The information we have from Columbus Fire and Safety is they haven't issued it because they haven't received payment for the install."

Council said it will now wait to see whether property owners address these issues, before considering shutting the towers down.

In the last 12 months, several problems have affected the quality of life for some residents living inside the towers.

These include a heat-related death back in July 2017, which forced the building's managers to get the air conditioning fixed by a deadline.

Hudgison also told City Council his inspection staff will continue to monitor the Ralston's status every two weeks. He then added agents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will come to Columbus later this week to assess the building's status.

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