Local News

McDougald Terrace residents complain of damage left by repair crews, break-ins during evacuation

Posted February 11, 2020 4:49 p.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2020 5:57 p.m. EST

— After more than a month of living out of hotel rooms, many McDougald Terrace residents are eagerly awaiting their return home as early as this weekend, but some aren't looking forward to what they will find when they get back.

"My apartment is in total disaster," Sequena Pettiford said Tuesday. "It's disgusting, I just went by there."

Pettiford said rooms in her apartment are ransacked, dirty dishes are piled in the kitchen sink and a bathroom is in disarray. That's not how she left things when she was among hundreds of residents to evacuate the public housing complex in Durham in early January.

More than a dozen McDougald Terrace residents were sent to area hospitals between late November and early January with elevated levels of carbon monoxide. About 280 of the 300-plus families who live in the complex were then moved to area hotels to allow work crews to thoroughly check the gas-powered furnaces, water heaters and ovens in the units.

Sixty-one percent of the 346 McDougald Terrace units checked had at least one faulty appliance – 211 stoves, 38 furnaces and 35 water heaters – and contractors have been working for the past two weeks to repair or replace them. The contractors are also rewiring units, upgrading gas venting systems and addressing problems with mold and insects in the apartments.

But Pettiford, who is among the residents scheduled to move back to McDougald Terrace on Friday, said contractors apparently didn't care about leaving a mess behind.

"Everything was done in disregard that people lived there," she said.

Even worse, some of the vacant apartments have been broken into, said Ashley Canady, president of the residents council at the complex.

"Why are apartments being broken into when we have security?" Canady asked. "A lot of people are preying on the community because [the residents] are not here."

Durham police and a private security firm hired by the Durham Housing Authority patrol the area regularly. Yet, Canady pointed out apartments where broken windows have been replaced by plywood.

DHA officials didn't respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

"I have a child terrified of going back," Pettiford said, noting that, in addition to having to clean up her apartment, she has to get her daughter emotionally ready to return to McDougald Terrace.

DHA has spent about $4 million on the repairs and another $1.9 million on relocation costs for the uprooted residents, including hotels, food, transportation and the extra security for the mostly vacant complex.

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