Lawsuit grows against Ash Street Place Apartments

Columbia apartments have two weeks to comply with new fire codes

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Within two weeks of a deadline to meet Columbia fire codes, a lawsuit against one apartment complex has continued to grow.

All apartment complexes in the city have until December 3 to have pull-down fire alarms in place.

The issue was brought to light after an April 9 fire at Ash Street Place Apartments off Stadium Boulevard. Dozens of residents were left without an apartment.

A lawsuit brought against Mills Properties, the complex's management, has grown from a handful of plaintiffs to nearly 40. The Ashland attorney representing them told ABC 17 News Wednesday he expected at least one more plaintiff to sign on soon.

The key issue in the lawsuit has been the alleged destruction of property inside tenants' apartments, even those not damaged by fire but in the same building.

"What we need is out clients to be compensated for what wasn't returned," said Matthew Uhrig. "We're not even having those discussions with Mills Properties right now."

Uhrig said some property had been returned to residents, but much had been deemed unsafe because of a possible asbestos contamination.

Local spokesman for Mills Properties, Mark Farnen, told ABC 17 News that was true. The company had returned some property, was storing other and had to destroy some since it had come in contact with disturbed asbestos.

Farnen said the temporary restraining order that came with the lawsuit when it was first filed back in May ended a couple months later. Since then, the company and its contractors could go into to retrieve that property and begin demolition and renovation work.

Neither side could comment Wednesday night about the next steps for the civil case, only saying it was still in place.

Farnen went on to say Mills Properties expected the damaged building to reopen in the spring.

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