Merrillville Fire Department shuts down buildings at Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments

Merrillville Fire Department shuts down buildings at Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments

Compromised structural integrity and unsafe living conditions prompted the Merrillville Fire Department to shut down two buildings in the Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments on Wednesday, June 7.

The Fire Department responded to the complex in the 5600 block of Hayes Street regarding building conditions.

“The brick front wall of one building had buckled outward, so the building has become structurally compromised,” Police Chief Kosta Nuses said.

While assessing the situation, the Fire Department also noticed extensive mold in the building.

“And they went to the next building just north of it, and that one was full of mold, too, so everyone in that building had to be evacuated,” Nuses said.

The Police Department was called to the scene at about 9:30 a.m. to assist with the evacuation of the buildings, and all tenants were safely removed from the unsafe conditions. There are 48 units in the affected buildings, and 12 families have been displaced because of the situation.

The Ross Township Trustee’s Office along with the American Red Cross is assisting displaced residents. Anyone affected by this incident can contact the Ross Township Trustee’s Office at 219-769-2111 or the American Red Cross at 219-756-5360.

For several months, the Hickory Ridge complex has been the focus of attention from Merrillville Code Enforcement. Prior to this incident, Code Enforcement personnel was actively working on getting Hickory Ridge to come into compliance with Town ordinances being violated. Due to legal limitations set by state and federal laws, Code Enforcement was limited to issuing warnings and citations to Hickory Ridge management.

A thorough police investigation will be conducted by the Merrillville Police Department because of this incident. This will be done to determine whether any laws were broken by the current owner or management division of Hickory Ridge.

Merrillville Planning and Building Director Sheila Shine said there has been a lack of cooperation from current and former owners to address issues at the apartment complex.

Shine said roofing repairs weren’t addressed, which led to water entering buildings and causing mold.

“We’ve had complaints from people with water leaking in their apartments,” Shine said.

In addition to the building issues, Town Council President Rick Bella said the grass there has reached close to 3 feet tall, and ownership hasn’t collected garbage for several weeks. The Town has hired a company to collect the trash in all dumpsters.

“It’s a big mess, a big problem,” Bella said.

Nuses said the property is in the process of being sold to a new owner. He said the potential new owner has offered to pay for garbage to be collected there and to have the grass mowed even before acquiring the property as an act of good faith.

“We are hopeful that new ownership will work with the Town and again make this a great apartment home complex in Merrillville,” Bella added.