NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A property manager is off the job at the Aqua Vista Apartments, where residents unleashed anger in late June over their living conditions.
Jim West tells 10 On Your Side he was fired on July 10 by Edgewood Management, which has operated the complex since February 2017.
“I feel like the sacrificial lamb in a sense,” said West, who has served as property manager since February 2013 under the previous owners.
City inspectors issued 74 violations to the apartment complex, including 37 notices regarding units with inadequate air conditioning systems.
Other problems included faulty plumbing, mold, broken doors and windows and rodents, according to violations issued by Newport News Codes and Compliance.
“It was a mess we were trying to clean up the best we could but the problems became so large, so quickly,” said West. “The maintenance guys that were on site would finish repairing one leak and before they could get the bathroom ceiling fixed up, they were out finding another leak and fixing that.”
West says the boiling point came on June 19 when dozens of residents marched on the management office demanding their air be fixed. West locked himself inside the office for hours and refused to answer 10 On Your Side’s questions.
West says many the air conditioning units “should have been replaced five to 10 years ago.” By the end of last summer, he says 130 work orders had been submitted by residents regarding the air conditioning.
In mid-May, West says a contractor determined many of the units were beyond repair. He says the uproar took place as property management was working to finalize a contract to fix the units.
“We were not sleeping on the issue,” he said. “We knew about it, we were being proactive, we were taking every step in our power really to get the issue resolved.”
West says decisions about fixing particular problems and assisting residents without air with hotel rooms was beyond his control.
“I wasn’t involved in it … it was over my head,” West said.
Edgewood Management made hotel arrangements for residents in the hours after 10 On Your Side started asking questions. The next day, a contractor was on site assessing the broken units.
Property records show I’m Frieda’s Boss, a company based in California, purchased Aqua Vista in 2017. 10 On Your Side was unable to reach the owner.
West says the company inherited many issues from the previous owners, including a crumbling plumbing system, but he defends all serious concerns were communicated with Edgewood.
“When problems came up, I expressed it to upper management. When a plan of action was decided upon, we carried it out.”
As of July 23, Edgewood Management says all air conditioning units are now operable. The company says all other issues identified by the city will be complete by “early next week.”
K T Sterling Mechanical Inc., the company contracted for the repairs, says they have replaced 19 old systems and will be servicing or replacing 14-20 additional systems over the next month.
“We are trying to look at the big picture and address any additional needs,” said Choni Wilcox, executive vice president at Edgewood. “I think we had to respond and we’ve tried to respond as quickly as we could.”