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A fresh start … hopefully

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Repairs start at Hobbs Apartments as management invests $325K in beleaguered facility

Community leaders were “hopeful” this week as crews went to work on much needed repairs to the Hobbs Apartments complex off Clinton Street on the city’s east side.

The complex has been in the news several times this year, beginning with a massive power outage that left residents without electricity during Christmas last year. The outage necessitated Albuquerque-based management company Monarch Properties to bring in multiple generators that were in place for several weeks and spawned a series of inspections from multiple city departments and calls from the community for something to be done.

In the immediate aftermath, the attention resulted in city inspectors identifying several needs, not the least of which were at least three sets of metal stairs — which represent the sole access to several second-floor apartments — being deemed unsafe, said Todd Randall, city engineer for Hobbs.

The inspections also identified issues with plumbing at the facility, as well as other items. After going through the process of engaging an architect, drawing up plans and securing building permits, Monarch Properties is now well into the process of making the much-needed repairs, Nichalle Lane, an area manager for the company, told the News-Sun this week.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve done various projects,” Lane said. “We had a lot of landscaping crews in to fix a sprinkler system that was busted, that residents tore up. Over the coming months, we’re going to be doing improvements to the (overall) property as well.”

For the current year, Monarch Properties has committed an estimated $325,000 to Hobbs Apartments repairs, Lane said. The company has already invested about $100,000 for plumbing repairs and plans to spend another $100,000 on replacing the stairways, she said. Plans call for close to $75,000 for general exterior painting and repairs and an additional roughly $50,000 earmarked for miscellaneous items.

“We’re updating new windows and installing air conditioners,” Lane said. “We’ll be moving forward over time until we get those updated as well.”

Hobbs City Manager Manny Gomez said Wednesday he was pleased Monarch Properties was moving forward, addressing issues identified by inspectors earlier this year. Gomez said continued discussions with the property managers indicated a desire on the company’s part to keep their property up.

“It was the city’s belief Monarch Properties was committed to making positive change to the living conditions” at Hobbs Apartments, he said. “This is a positive step in the right direction from Monarch.”

The management company still makes general repairs to different apartments as they become vacant, she said. Lane described those as “just routine maintenance so we can fix problems with individual apartments. As they become empty, we replace flooring, cabinets, counter-tops — we do all that good stuff before we move someone else in.”

Occupancy at the Hobbs Apartments is down since Lane took over day-to-day management of the facility in January, she said. Some of that is due to evictions for violating leases.

But, having vacant apartments has an up side, Lane said. It allows maintenance crews to go in and make repairs and gives the company somewhere to place other residents whose apartments need work to move to, she said.

Not all the improvements at the Hobbs Apartments are to the physical structure, Lane said. Last week, she hosted a community meeting for all residents, featuring representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who talked about COVID-19 vaccines and a health and safety presentation from Hobbs Fire Marshal Shawn Williams.

“We invited all the residents to come to make sure their voices were heard,” Lane said. “Hopefully, moving forward, we will have community meetings every month to find out what residents want to make it better.

“Things are looking up and looking better out here,” she said. “I’m very happy right now with the way things are going.”

Patricia Grovey, longtime community advocate and founder of Child and Family Services Inc. of Lea County, said this week she was pleased to hear of positive change at the Hobbs Apartments. She became intimately involved in the issues at the complex following the Christmas power outage over concern for the residents and, in particular, their children, many of who are students in the Head Start program her non-profit agency operates.

“I’m just extremely pleased they are moving forward,” Grovey told the News-Sun on Wednesday. She credited the “grassroots advocacy” she and other started early this year with contributing to the changes.

“Bringing the attention to the Hobbs Apartments did create a change,” Grovey said. “It inspired those who have the power to do something about it.”

But Grovey described herself as cautiously optimistic about the changes going on now at Hobbs Apartments. For years — before Lane took over day-to-day operations of the complex directly — complaints from tenants and from around the community seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“After so many years of broken promises and band aide fixes, you are a little skeptical,” she said. “But you’re always hopeful people are going to do the best for the people living in those apartments.

“I hope (Monarch Properties) look at he residents as worthy of having conditions that are just livable, healthy and safe,” Grovey said. “All of the things they say they’re going to fix, if they do it, would make for livable conditions. That’s all we’re asking for.”

Lane remained committed, though, to the future for both Hobbs Apartments and its residents.

“We’re doing a lot of things here,” she said. “We want to help this community and we want it to be different.

“I pointed out to our residents — I can’t do it by myself,” Lane said. “They have to appreciate where they live and take pride in where they live, support each other and look out for each other. All we can do is try.”

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