War Over Saints Apartments Continues

The future of the Saints Apartment Complex on the corner of Foster and Powell Streets in Dothan continues to be a hot topic.

The debate has shifted from questions concerning ownership of the property to the past removal of toxic building materials. Wednesday's Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority meeting renewed discussion about whether the removal of asbestos from the buildings was done legally.

Ruth Page Nelson, of Smart North America, Inc. took the podium at the meeting, saying "I cannot accept an unaddressed, undated, unsigned document that something's done correctly."

The document Nelson is asking for is written proof that the buildings are safe from contaminants. She claims that asbestos from Saints Apartments was removed improperly back in April, posing a "deadly" health hazard that has never been correctly cleaned.

"In having witnesses to it, it was done wrong," said Nelson. "The place is contaminated. Chips of it are still out there."

One witness to the asbestos abatement stepped forward to tell what he saw that day.

"Nobody was wetting down nothing," he said. "Only thing they was taking asbestos off with was screwdrivers, hammers and crow bars."

The witness says the team did not wear suits or use respirators, and that a protective bubble was not put up to protect people in the surrounding area.

The DDRA says their contractor followed proper procedure in the abatement.

"We hired a professional, licensed contractor to come in, highly recommended," said Jansen Tidmore, DDRA Executive Director. "We rely on his expertise because we're not the experts."

Tidmore also says the Alabama Department of Environmental Management came to investigate the site and emailed a statement saying that there was no problem.

But Nelson claims the statement is missing some important details.

"Can you imagine taking paperwork that doesn't have a date, address or signature and allegedly is a state document?" says Nelson. "And for them to even question whether the state would put this on their stationary?"

Wednesday, the DDRA approved a motion that gives Nelson 30 days to come up with a feasibility study and a formal purchase offer for the buildings.
But Nelson says she isn't coming near the building until she gets written documentation on official ADEM letterhead stating that any toxic materials disturbed were removed properly.

Nelson's company wants to buy the Saints Apartments Complex, which the DDRA owns, and turn it into a training institute for green jobs .

The DDRA has plans to develop the area into a parking lot and green space.

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