Residents leave Brumfield vacant

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Brumfield Apartments now sit vacant after the management company left.

NATCHEZ — Pens stood organized in a cup on a desk, writing was scribbled on a white board and files were neatly stacked on the office desk at Brumfield Apartments Tuesday.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Brumfield Apartments now sit vacant after the management company abandoned the building.

The inside of the office could only be seen through a broken mail slot hanging off the door, because the office door has likely been locked since February when Stanford Management abandoned the housing complex that served mostly low-income individuals.

The first-floor hall is mostly empty except for some wire hangers and a left-behind bookcase; the 11 residents were forced to leave on short notice.

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The managing company slipped letters under residents’ doors Jan. 27 and in the mayor’s mailbox Jan. 25 saying they will no longer be running the building starting Feb. 1.

Stanford Management, a private full-service property management firm, oversees 2,000 units located throughout Maine, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Connecticut.

Soon after the initial notice, residents were told they had to be out by March 31.

Former Brumfield resident Dan Gaddis said he did not have enough notice to move out his belongings before the lights were shut off.

Ward 4 Alderman Ernest “Tony” Fields said Entergy and Natchez Waterworks were keeping the lights and water on as long as they did out of kindness.

“(The management company) was months past due on all utilities,” Fields said.

Gaddis said he applied for a voucher to move away from Natchez, and the process took until past the date he was supposed to be out.

Gaddis said many residents also had trouble finding places in which to relocate, especially the three individuals without family in Natchez.

Gaddis said the company left without giving residents back their safety deposits. His was for $375, he said.

“(Stanford) went about the whole thing wrong. If I would have did what they did, I would be arrested,” Gaddis said.

Both Gaddis and Fields said they suspect Stanford had known for months and perhaps a year or more before they slipped letters under doors that they would have to close the complex because they were not making money.

Fields said he believes Stanford acted illegally because they did not give adequate notice.

Fields said the city does not have to absorb any of the management company’s debts, however, and that he is unsure what party could prosecute the company.

Gaddis said most of the residents of Brumfield qualified for Section 8, which makes the process of moving and finding other Section 8 housing a challenge.

Gaddis said Tuesday he was staying in a hotel and probably leaving on a bus today headed out of town where seasonal jobs are available.

“I didn’t really want to leave because I’m taking theology classes (in Natchez), but I (decided to leave) because all of the things happened to me were adding up,” Gaddis said.

Fields said he thinks everyone has moved out of Brumfield, but was not certain. Gaddis said one resident might still be there but is trying to get out soon.

No trespassing signs have been placed on the building, but it remains open.

Police Chief Mike Mullins said he has asked the police officers who regularly patrol the area near St. Catherine and Sixth streets to patrol Brumfield on foot since it has become vacant.

He said he has not had an elevated amount of complaints in at the complex. But vacant buildings can invite vandalism and trespassing, which are prosecutable.

“It is important to make sure (Brumfield) is secure once its vacant,” he said.

Fields said a number of people have shown interest in buying the Brumfield School building.

Prospective buyers would be dealing with the owner of the building, Pam Gleichman.

Fields said city officials have made failed attempts to contact Stanford but that officials have communicated with Gleichman.

Fields said he hopes, for two main reasons, the building can be sold to someone who operates it the right way.

“No. 1, (Brumfield) is housing for people who really need it. And No. 2, it’s a historical building and needs to be preserved and used.”

“The job isn’t finished; I’m hoping the building can go to the right people.”

Stanford also abandoned Oak Towers, which house the Guardian Shelter, a battered woman’s shelter owned by Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities Director Martha Mitternight said the Guardian Shelter is currently continuing to operate at its Oak Towers location, but Catholic Charities is actively looking for another location for the shelter.