The embattled Hobbs Apartment complex on East Clinton Street saw a flurry of activity Thursday as code and safety inspectors from several different city departments made their way around the complex looking for violations.
Even before the inspectors arrived, the complex was abuzz with workers, fixing windows, working on plumbing and blowing leaves and generally sprucing up the complex. There was even a man seen with a paint roller on a long pole, touching up discolored areas on the outside walls of some of the buildings.
Led by a Hobbs Fire Department pickup, a parade of city inspectors arrived shortly before 9 a.m., charged with an overall survey of the public areas of the complex, city Fire Marshal Shawn Williams told the News-Sun. Each team of inspectors concentrated on a different area that could impact the health and safety of the tenants, he said.
While Williams’ team was checking for fire hazards and making sure residents had a clear way to get out of their apartments in case there is a fire, code enforcement officer Jessica Silva surveyed the overall conditions at the complex, looking for trash, weeds or just “any dilapidation on the buildings,” she said.
The fire marshal’s office annually inspects all multi-family apartment complexes within the city for immediate safety concerns, Williams said. But code enforcement primarily reacts to reports of something amiss at a property, Silva said.
“We go off a complaint basis,” she said. “With all the issues going on we’re going ahead with a courtesy inspection to see what violations we can find.”
And plumbing and mechanical inspector Jimmy Littleton from the Hobbs Building Inspector’s office was looking for violations within his area of expertise. Building inspectors, too, don’t typically perform regular inspections, he said, concentrating rather on verifying permits and checking work is done correctly on either new constructions or repairs. But inspectors can respond to complaints or concerns over health and safety issues.
Hobbs Apartments management company, Albuquerque-based Monarch Properties has recently filed for several permits for water heater and plumbing repairs or replacements, Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb told the News-Sun on Wednesday.
“Today, we’re just looking around the outside to see if there’s open sewers and such,” Littleton said.
Living conditions at the Hobbs Apartments have long been a concern to the city, Cobb said this week. This most recent round of interest in the apartments was triggered by the loss of electrical service to roughly 56 apartments there after a transformer reportedly went out on Christmas Day, according to a release from the city.
The transformer still hasn’t been replaced by Thursday, pending delivery of a replacement, Monarch Properties area manager Nichalle Lane said. Electricity is still being supplied to individual buildings at the complex by several portable generators brought in shortly after the initial outage was reported, Lane said.
The complex and the management company remained under scrutiny by the community as the process of addressing concerns there got underway this week. Joseph Cotton, president of the Hobbs chapter of the NAACP — the oldest civil rights organization in the country — was on hand Thursday to observe, for example, he said.
“Quality of life is very important,” Cotton said. “We want to make sure everybody is afforded the same quality of life. Whatever we can do as a community to help improve that, we want to make sure that’s what happens.”
The inspections Thursday were just the first step in an ongoing process, Williams said. The next step will be coordinating inspector’s reports with acting city manager and fire chief Manny Gomez and others and developing further plans for the future, he said.
“This is a step process,” Williams said. “This is just the initial step. We’re going to come out here several times.” The regular annual fire safety inspection “was moved up in response to the recent complaints against the apartments.”
Lane, Monarch’s area manager, said regardless of the reason, the company remains committed to working with the city to address whatever issues are found.
“Today is a good day,” she said. “Every day is a good day when you’re making progress.”
Asked if she’d communicated with her superiors at Monarch Properties Albuquerque office, Lane declined to comment.
“There’s a lot of rumors out there,” she said. “We don’t want to comment on anything.
“We’ll just let the inspections speak for themselves,” Lane said. “That’s all we can do.”