Court allows Ralston two more weeks to fix all units violating city code

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Representatives from Ralston Towers answered to two dozen code violations written by Columbus's Building and Code Department in Recorder's Court.

Inspection and Code director John Hudgison told an Environmental Court judge Wednesday his department checked all 24 units found in violation of city code requiring all units inside the building maintain a minimum temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of the 24 units in question, inspectors confirmed 20 had been cleared and repaired.

Travis Hargrove, a local attorney representing the building's landlord, told the court his client accepts full responsibility, acknowledging those units were in violation when inspected last month.

Hargrove also said his client has ensured all 24 units were up and running before the court date, but inspectors have not yet physically confirmed this claim.

"If they call today," Hudgison said, "we'll check them to verify, to make sure, because we don't want to wait another two weeks. We don't want another cold snap between now and then, with people still living in freezing conditions."

Building and code inspectors received calls of issues inside the tower's units the first weekend of January 2018. By January 4, they found several units in the towers unable to generate heat; and at one point, inspectors said all residents lost access to hot water.

Hudgison appeared before Columbus City Council, informing it of the units violating the temperature threshold.

The inspection forced Mayor Teresa Tomlinson to evacuate tenants living in those units, placing them in a local motel at the property owner's expense.

Ralston's owners originally had a January deadline to answer these violations in Environment Court. That date was postponed, in light of winter weather that brought snow and ice to Columbus and several parts of the Chattahoochee Valley.

The judge told the landlord he has two weeks -  until February 21 - to comply with all citations and repairs.

News Leader 9 asked Hargrove for additional comments from his client. Hargrove said his client had no further comment on the matter.

Another pending concern for Ralston owners includes a future notice from Columbus Fire and EMS officials, detailing how the building may be in violation of fire codes.

Columbus Fire and EMS officials offered their insight into the property's additional troubles during a past city council meeting.

Fire officials acknowledged the towers' management installed a new fire alarm system, replacing one dating back to the 1940s.

As of early January, however, Hudgison said the building is still technically in violation of National Fire Prevention Association Standards.

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