Arlington preparing to evacuate apartments

ARLINGTON -- City workers went door to door at a north Arlington apartment complex Wednesday warning residents that the power may be shut off and urging them to make plans to move to alternate housing or an emergency shelter.

Residents of the Bristol Pointe Apartments off Lamar Boulevard have been without hot water for three weeks because the gas was cut off.

The city notified about 175 residents that they could lose electric power because the apartment management is far behind in its payments to Gexa Energy, Community Services Director Lee Hitchcock said.

"This is significant. We decided to take the unprecedented step of notifying the residents what may happen and be ready," he said. "We can not allow folks to live in a situation that is unsafe."

Bristol Pointe, owned by Allen and Shlomo Chelminsky of Florida, was posted for foreclosure and could be sold at auction Tuesday, according to public records.

The complex has received 124 citations from the city because of the lack of hot water but passed its most recent annual inspection, Hitchcock said.

Arlington police and fire chiefs could decide to evacuate tenants if the electricity is shut off, he said.

"That is unacceptable at any time, but especially in a Texas summer," said Hitchcock, who added that tenants staying there with Section 8 housing vouchers have already been approved to move to other apartments.

The other tenants will have the choice of staying or breaking their leases, he said.

The apartment manager, DMJ Management, did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday, and the office at the complex was locked.

The management company gave tenants a letter June 25 apologizing for the inconvenience. It stated that the power would not be shut off and that the hot water would be restored by Monday.

Getting out

For some tenants, the promise was not enough. Several moving trucks and trailers could be seen in the complex parking lots Thursday, and one tenant yelled out "Don't rent here" to passing pedestrians.

Laura Beckley, who has lived at the complex two years, is frustrated but doesn't want to move.

Her apartment is close to her job and right across from a playground, where she can watch her three children from the front door. But, Beckley said, if management doesn't start taking care of its responsibilities, her family will pack up and leave, like many other tenants.

"I've been taking cold showers for three weeks. I get my baby in and out as fast as I can," Beckley said. "I say, 'Just pretend like you're swimming.'"

Marta Dussan, speaking through an interpreter, said she doesn't know where she and her family would go. She said she is worried about her son, Daniel Rodriguez, an epileptic whose seizures are triggered by the heat, if the power is turned off.

"She wonders what the people are doing with her money," said Pastor Roger Venegas, a family friend. "She has always paid her rent on time. She feels like her rights are violated."

Default and foreclosure

In 2008, Allen Chelminsky told the Star-Telegram that he and Shlomo, his father, planned to spend $50 million renovating Bristol Pointe and nine other complexes that their company, King Landing, had purchased between Lamar and Green Oaks boulevards in north Arlington.

However, King Landing recently defaulted on a $12.5 million note taken out for the Bristol Pointe property and is also facing foreclosure on three other complexes at Misty Ridge Circle, Furrs Street and Collins Street, according to public records.

Councilman Mel LeBlanc, who represents the north side, said he's proud of the city's quick response and preparedness to handle the potential health-safety crisis.

"The city really has been working feverishly in marshaling resources to make sure no citizen is harmed by the management going into foreclosure," LeBlanc said.

SUSAN SCHROCK, 817-390-7639