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College Park conflict continues

Mary Kate Malone | Friday, January 28, 2005

In late December 2004, water pipes burst at College Park apartment complex, unleashing water into the eight units directly below and damaging the homes of 23 Notre Dame students. Nearly one month later, a prolonged and vocal conflict has emerged between College Park management, the student tenants and their families.

“Initially I was hoping we could work this out and come to some sort of agreement, but they haven’t been agreeable at all,” said Kristin Boyd, a senior whose apartment was affected by the incident. “We’re planning on pursuing a lawsuit for myself and my roommates.”

On Jan. 2, Paramount Management property manager Patty Russwurm notified the affected residents of the damage done to their apartments. In a Jan. 12 article in The Observer, Russwurm said the damage’s cause was the tenants’ failure to turn off the heat. However, an inspection report by a local plumber showed otherwise.

Mac Trench, a master plumber in the South Bend area, completed an inspection for Boyd and her roommates. He was hired by Boyd’s father, a real estate professional who had been growing increasingly suspicious since Russwurm’s call.

“[Russwurm] was trying to bully the students into thinking it was their fault for this,” said Boyd’s father, Gregg. “Once she found out we had a professional plumber come it to look at everything, she stopped threatening.”

Russwurm did not respond to repeated requests from The Observer for comment for this article.

According to Trench, the cause of the damage was not in fact that the heat was turned off (though the tenants claim it was indeed left on), but rather negligence on the part of management to correct a flaw in the piping system that caused a similar situation several years ago.

In the inspection report given to Gregg Boyd, Trench wrote due to repair work that had already been performed, he “could not see any damaged piping.” Instead, “the pipes were in an open chase that was open to the attic … these pipes will freeze again if not corrected properly,” Trench noted. “Insulation will not solve the problem.”

“Trench told us, ‘I was the plumber that worked on this problem before, and I told them how to fix it, and they wouldn’t pay for it,'” Gregg Boyd said. “They just paid for the patch. Heat wouldn’t have affected it. It wasn’t the tenants’ fault.”

The inspection was completed on Jan. 6, he said.

Since Jan. 12 further damage has been discovered in the apartments, and communication with Paramount has become increasingly difficult, Kristin Boyd said.

“Yesterday I found mold growing in our closet,” she said. “But management has been telling us for weeks there is no mold and yet won’t give us back the mold test we requested.”

Her roommate, senior Elizabeth Cain, said Russwurm’s absence from her office the past week has made obtaining the results of the mold test nearly impossible.

“The company [who performed the mold test] said that the test was completed but that they were not allowed to disclose the results,” Cain said. “So I called Paramount. But they said Patty was out of town.”

In the Jan. 12 Observer article, Russwurm said huge efforts were put forth to ensure the apartments returned to a livable condition.

“It has been very difficult to try to get students back in to their apartments,” Russwurm said. “We have had contractors, cleaning crews, disaster relief agencies, all working 24/7 to repair the damage.”

But now the tenants are seeking an explanation for why their furniture, now covered in dry wall, was not removed from the apartments before the repairs were made.

Local general contractor Philip Mosby, Jr., who was hired to repair the drywall in the apartments, defended Paramount, commending the company’s professionalism and practicality.

“I did suggest that it would be a good idea to move the furniture out before I began working, but they [management] told me that they couldn’t move the furniture because the students had to be there to give them the okay,” Mosby said.

Gregg Boyd and his daughter, however, maintain a different story.

In a document Gregg Boyd compiled of the problems he has encountered with Paramount, he wrote, “Paramount refused to pay the fees required to move out the furnishings of the tenants. Thus they were piled up in the middle of the rooms, left wet, getting mold.”

Amid all the controversy, other students living in the damaged apartments are seeking a peaceful reconciliation.

“I would just like to move on and just make sure everything is covered,” said Kristin Boyd’s neighbor, senior Conner O’Keefe. “But as far as my anger is toward Paramount, I’m still disappointed in the way they handled it.”

For the Boyds, filing a lawsuit is the next step.

“The suit would be against all the parties that have been involved,” Gregg Boyd said. “They have been persecuting these students that have been devastated by something that did not need to happen.”

Russwurm told The Observer for the Jan. 12 article that Paramount did not intend to file lawsuits against the student tenants.