Flood, mold leave Chapel Hill residents in limbo

tgrubb@newsobserver.comAugust 2, 2013 

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Five storage pods and a trailer take up half of one of the parking lots Friday at the Airport Gardens Apartments, 821 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill. Reconstruction will begin soon for a black mold problem due to recent flooding damage.

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • Service changes

    Flooding on the first floor of Chapel Hill Town Hall forced workers to remove the furniture, carpet and the bottom 2 feet of drywall. The water also damaged the Town Council dais. The repairs and related renovation work could cost more than $400,000 and will affect several services:

    • Council Meetings and Board/Commission Meetings: The Council Chamber, First Floor Conference Room and Second Floor Training Room are unavailable for meetings. Meetings of the Town Council could move to the Orange County Southern Human Services Center at 2501 Homestead Drive, and meetings of Town boards and commissions will move to other locations including the Chapel Hill Public Library at 100 Library Drive. Check the Town web calendar for more information at townofchapelhill.org/calendar.

    • Revenue Collection: A temporary payment window is on the second floor of Town Hall. Revenue collection services is expected to move to University Square, 123 W. Franklin St., in late August. People paying public housing rents or tax payments should come to this location or pay by mail to the Town of Chapel Hill, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. Permit payments made by credit card or checks may be taken on the third floor of Town Hall, either in the Planning Department or Inspections Division.

    • Internal Services: Town staff should continue to come to Town Hall for payroll services, which are temporarily located in the Second Floor Training Room. Information Technology staff are at various locations, and may be reached by internal users via 969-2020 or ITSupport@townofchapelhill.org.

— If it weren’t for the dark windows and storage pods in the parking lot, life at the Airport Gardens Apartments would have seemed normal last week.

Two women leaned against a wall in the afternoon sun, chatting as a group of young children played with a turtle they had found in the grass. A pair of boys rode their bikes along the sidewalk.

The rain that seriously damaged many low-lying Chapel Hill and Carrboro homes June 30 also flooded 18 apartments at the town-owned public housing complex on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Airport Gardens’ 26 units sit on a hill overlooking Hillsborough Street and the Bolin Creek Greenway. The Chapel Hill Police Department is across the street. The complex had a new drainage system and retaining wall installed in the late 1990s, town Housing Director Tina Vaughn said.

“The water came so fast and so high, the drainage system couldn’t handle it,” she said.

In the days that followed, cleanup crews also found mold growing inside some of the walls, she said.

Residents did not want to be identified last week but said they are worried how long it will take for life to return to normal. A July 10 letter from the housing department said the town was working with a contractor to schedule the repairs. The letter also gave residents phone numbers to call if they needed temporary housing or other assistance.

One woman said residents have since contacted the housing department, the mayor and others trying to get answers.

Even those who took the town’s offer of a hotel room continue to cope without dependable transportation to work and to their apartments for necessities or to cook meals. Other residents are staying with relatives or have returned home to wait for the repairs.

Vaughn said one hotel does offer a continental breakfast, but other families may be eating with relatives or at local restaurants. If a serious mold problem is confirmed, the hotel stays will be extended, she said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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