Settlement reached over Trail Ridge Apartments
By Janice Gregorson
Two bags of dead cockroaches sat on the floor in the side of the courtroom.
Rochester Attorney Charles Brumbach told Judge Joseph Wieners on Tuesday that they represent one of the ongoing problems faced by tenants at Trail Ridge Apartments.
But before the cockroaches and other evidence could be presented, a settlement was reached in which the building’s owner agreed to fund a checking account to remedy ongoing problems and provide "habitable housing."
In late 2005, 10 apartment residents brought the civil action to get management to fix problems that ranged from a cockroach infestations to leaky pipes, broken appliances, faulty smoke detectors, filthy hallways, and broken windows and screens.
A hearing in January 2006 ended with a settlement. The court retained jurisdiction, however, and the parties were back in the courtroom Tuesday amid tenant allegations that the problems had not been fixed.
Brumbach, an attorney with the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services representing the six remaining tenants in the dispute, came armed with bags of dead cockroaches, pictures of the property and some 15 witnesses.
Other proposed exhibits included documents from city building inspectors and the fire department citing violations and the need for corrections at the two-building, 60-unit apartment complex located in the 800 block of 21st Street Southeast.
Instead, what was expected to be a daylong hearing ended abruptly after lunch with the settlement.
Kenneth Hertz — Columbia Heights attorney representing the defendants, Equity One Management Group LLC of St. Paul and Rochester Service Corp. LLC of Brooklyn Center — told the judge he hopes this resolves the matter.
He agreed that his clients will set up a checking account in Rochester for the purpose of maintaining, operating and providing "habitable housing" at Trail Ridge. That account will be funded with $5,000 and maintained at that level each month for a year.
The site manager will have the authority to draw money from that account for ongoing maintenance and operations, including complying with any current or future correction orders filed by the Rochester Building and Safety Department or fire department.
Monthly reports will be submitted to Wieners to show that the owners are keeping the account fully funded.
"Let’s hope this works at getting things done," Hertz said of the agreement.
Brumbach told Wieners that this has never been about getting money for the tenants, but about making sure the property is safe, clean and maintained.
"Hopefully this will accomplish that," he said.
Once again, Wieners will retain jurisdiction for a year.