Merrillville continues monitoring situation at Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments
The safety concerns at Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments continue to be a priority for the Town of Merrillville, and multiple agencies are involved in addressing the situation and assisting affected residents.
The Merrillville Fire Department on Tuesday, June 13, returned to the complex in the 5600 block of Hayes Street with the Lake County Health Department to complete an analysis of the entire property.
This comes after the Fire Department on June 7 vacated two buildings at Hickory Ridge after observing a bowed-out wall and apparent mold in the two buildings.
The most recent evaluation found that all buildings in the complex had either unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
Merrillville Fire Marshal Robert Pillman said that includes additional structural concerns, appearance of mold in occupied and unoccupied units, electrical hazards, inaccessible fire extinguishers, missing or inoperable smoke detectors, inoperable fire alarms, and a large accumulation of trash in buildings.
A report sent to the Friedman Management Company, which operates Hickory Ridge, requires the company to complete lab testing of the potential mold in the buildings. The report also asks for air quality testing.
The Fire Department also instructed the Friedman Management Company to have a structural engineer evaluate the bowed-out brick facade on several buildings as well as balconies, which appear to be deteriorating or potentially unstable.
The Fire Department evacuated 12 families on June 7, and Pillman said no other residents have been evacuated as a result of the ongoing situation.
Pillman said he will reinspect Hickory Ridge in 30 days, and he has informed the Friedman Management Company to keep the Town informed of progress made to address the compliance issues.
Merrillville is handling the fire code issues, and the Lake County Health Department is monitoring the potential mold situation.
As the Town’s fire marshal, Pillman completes inspections of Merrillville’s apartments, hotels, and motels on an annual basis. He inspected Hickory Ridge in March this year and found many of the same safety issues that are listed in his most recent report.
Pillman said the March inspection focused on common areas in the apartment complex. He is permitted to inspect vacant units in apartments, hotels, and motels, but a lack of cooperation from on-site property management at Hickory Ridge made it unfeasible to inspect vacant units at the complex in March. He said the potential mold issues in the buildings are primarily found inside of apartment units, which is why it wasn’t listed in the March report.
As the Town and Lake County continue monitoring the unsafe and unhealthy conditions at Hickory Ridge, efforts have been underway to assist residents affected by the situation.
Those in need of help are encouraged to visit the Ross Township Trustee’s Office at 26 W. 73rd Ave. or call the office at (219) 769-2111.
The Town has received inquiries from many interested in providing monetary donations to assist the private individuals of Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments. The Town is touched by the generosity of the community, but Town administration is recommending and have asked the Ross Township Trustee’s Office to assist in the collection of donations.
Donations to the Town of Merrillville are intended to be used for the public good, not spent on or given to private individuals, which is why the Ross Township Trustee’s Office is the proper channel for donations to assist individuals from the Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments. Trustee Eric Blackmon is already set up to handle exactly this kind of situation, and his office already has the procedures and infrastructure in place to process the distribution of monies to Ross Township residents in need of assistance. Blackmon also has the staff to handle review of the paperwork needed, and his office has the system in place to process payments directly to landlords and utility providers on behalf of residents.
Visit rosstownshipin.org for donation information.
Hickory Ridge residents with questions about the situation involving the apartment complex can contact Rebecca Cook, CPM, the director of multi-family management at Friedman Communities:
26711 Northwestern Highway, Suite 150
Southfield, MI 48033