Several major water leaks, no heat in two of the three buildings, and tens of thousands of dollar in unpaid water and sewer bills have compounded the disaster waiting to happen at the New Harbor Condominium development on Riverview Drive in Benton Harbor, forcing the city to condemn the property as seriously unsafe living conditions.
Benton Harbor City Manager Ellis Mitchell recently had inspectors peruse the 90 unit condo project at 655 Riverview Drive to determine whether it should be condemned for those unsafe living conditions. The ensuing report produced evidence of water leaks throughout the complex which would lead to pipes breaking with the onset of colder temperatures in the days ahead, and two of the three buildings have no heat source whatsoever.
Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski concurs with Mitchell’s assessment and the two are now seeking solutions for the 10 people who still call the place home. Witkowski is involved because last April his department foreclosed on 43 of the 90 units there following the prior owner’s failure to pay three years worth of overdue property taxes.
Those 43 units were put onto the auction block at the July property tax foreclosure auction for a minimum bid of $144,000 — equal to the amount due in unpaid tax liabilities. The units, however, did not sell.
Last month Witkowski offered potential developers the opportunity to issue private bids to take all 43 of the units that were foreclosed on, but has yet to come up with a viable buyer for the complex.
In addition to the water and heat issues piling up, unpaid water and sewer bills are on the rise, totaling $116,000 and climbing that are owed by the condo association. As a result, Mitchell says that the city has found it to be in the best interest of the residents to shut off the water on a date as yet to be determined by the city. Witkowski says he has no objection to that decision by the city.
Witkowski and Mitchell say that they have received assistance from the Emergency Shelter Service and Harbor Country Mission for the ten remaining residents at New Harbor, however they are in need of additional assistance to help them find safer housing. They are issuing an appeal for assistance to help them.
Witkowski says if you are in a position to assist in their relocation, you are asked to call his office at your earliest convenience at 269-982-8645.