Thursday, 23 May 2024 13:59

“Epic Failure”: Malta Town Board Addresses Steeplechase Apartments Fire Code Violations

Steeplechase at Malta apartment complex photo via the  company’s website. See Story pg. 12 Steeplechase at Malta apartment complex photo via the company’s website. See Story pg. 12

MALTA — The Malta Town Board held a public hearing on Monday night regarding fire code violations at the Steeplechase apartments. The violations, first noted in May of 2022, were initially supposed to have been addressed by September 2022. Representatives from Steeplechase said the violations were still being addressed as of May 2024. They also said they didn’t know if residents had ever been notified of the violations.

The hearing resulted in some heated exchanges, including Councilperson Al Ricci repeatedly referring to the unaddressed violations as an “epic failure,” and Councilperson Barbara Conner telling a Steeplechase representative that she didn’t understand how they could live with themselves.

Special counsel Stefanie Bitter said that after the initial May 2022 inspection report, the town followed up with Steeplechase at least four times in 2022 and 2023. In August 2023, a second inspection noted 104 deficiencies that affected 235 residential units. In November 2023, a fire marshal issued an order to remedy the violations and gave Steeplechase thirty days to do so.

A property manager at the apartment complex later said she was aware of the violations and was working to address them. As of the hearing on Monday night, only six of the complex’s twenty-four buildings had completed the remedial work.

 

 

The primary safety issue, said Malta Code Enforcement Officer Greg Berg, was unlisted antifreeze systems within the buildings, which can become flammable and, under certain conditions, could cause an explosion. 

“It’s like playing with grandpa’s old World War II hand grenade and someone says it’s been defused. I’m not pulling the pin,” Berg said. 

Attorney Jennifer Yetto, representing Steeplechase, said the company had contracted a vendor to complete the necessary work in the remaining buildings by the end of August. “Contrary to what the town may have noted,” Yetto said, “we very much are concerned with our residents as much as anyone else.” Yetto criticized town officials for poor communication. She also refused to concede any of the violations.

“We’re very well aware this had been prejudged well before we even walked into the door,” Yetto told Councilperson Ricci.

“It seems like a lot more effort has gone into the defense of the procedure than it has to fix.. the problems of the building,” Ricci said.

The hearing was adjourned with the understanding that Steeplechase had hired a vendor and would address the remaining violations by the end of August.

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