AUSTIN (KXAN) — Almost two months have now passed since the seniors living at an affordable apartment complex in north Austin have had any heat or hot water.
Crews only recently said they discovered the source of the gas leak beneath The Villages at Fiskville, located at 10127 Middle Fiskville Road. The complex had to turn off the natural gas service on Dec. 18.
Christy Lanier-Robinson, who works for the building’s owner LDG Development, told KXAN Thursday that an old gas leak beneath the original, undeveloped site became detected once the apartment complex was completed.
Crews are still unsure how that exactly happened, but they’re now breaking up the parking lot on the west side of the building to try and vent the excess gas. They expect that work to last another 30 days, and they’re hoping it will then be safe enough to have the natural gas service restored. However, there’s no guaranteed fix.
In the meantime, management met Wednesday afternoon again with residents. Many of them are still staying at a hotel nearby.
Martha Mahan has been at the hotel since Dec. 26. On Wednesday she said she accepted the offer to move to the Harris Branch senior apartments, a sister property owned by LDG Development near Dessau Road and Parmer Lane in Austin.
“All I know is that iIm glad we’re finally coming to a place where I can settle down and say I can make it my home,” Mahan explained. “I just want to feel at home and live peacefully instead of stressing out every day.”
Willie Gates, however, is unsure if she’ll follow her neighbor to the other apartment complex.
She’s skeptical because it’s owned by the same company, and the crews it hired have no way of knowing if the work they’re doing at The Villages at Fiskville will ultimately make everything right again.
“We think gas, hot water [and] heat are a basic necessity, and, for most people, it’s something they take for granted,” Gates said. “But, for me, I’ve learned this is a very humbling experience because of just not knowing what tomorrow’s going to bring, not knowing whether I’m going to be in a hotel. Technically, I’m homeless, so at this point it’s really a lot of pain and suffering.”
Lanier-Robinson told KXAN that the company finished installing electric water heaters Thursday in the occupied apartments at The Villages at Fiskville. While people could return there and have hot water once again, they’d still have to rely on a space heater to keep warm.
“I don’t want that option,” Gates said.
For now she plans to stay at the hotel, while Mahan is preparing to move this weekend into her new apartment. Residents said the management at The Villages at Fiskville told them they would provide help with packing and moving to the other apartment complex.
A spokesperson for the Texas Gas Service reiterated Thursday that the natural gas would remain off until the property owner safely resolves the situation.
The Villages at Fiskville are located in the district for Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar. KXAN has been told this his office is looking further into this issue.