Residents allowed to stay in Penn Hills apartments after water, electric restored |

Residents allowed to stay in Penn Hills apartments after water, electric restored

Penn Hills residents of the Val Mar Garden Apartments on Robinson Boulevard held a demonstration at the complex on Monday afternoon and marched to the offices of the Penn Joint Water Authority chanting “What do we want? We want water,” hoping to find a solution to their plight.

Penn Hills has lifted an order it placed on over 20 families to move out of an apartment complex after some utilities were restored to the buildings.

The municipality’s manager, Scott Andrejchak, said Thursday that water had been turned back on at Valmar Gardens through a court order and that electricity was restored in order to fix a defunct fire alarm system.

Andrejchak said he visited the complex Wednesday and Thursday. He noted the four-building complex has two buildings with water and electricity. One does not have adequate plumbing and another was burned in a fire several months ago and is vacant. Those two will be secured, he said.

“We’re working with tenants to get people moved to the buildings that have water,” Andrejchak said. “Right now, our plan is to monitor the situation on a regular basis and to secure the empty units.”

The water, serviced by Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority, was shut off Sept. 12 when the property owner failed to install a backflow monitor and did not respond to notices to do so. Andrejchak said he and other municipal officials are urging the residents there to relocate because of other code violations on the premise and ongoing litigation related to the complex’s ownership.

“Several of them said they needed a little more time, well, this gives them some reprieve,” he said. “But I don’t think this will be the end of the issues.”

One resident, Andre Mobley, 52, said he is relieved. He’s lived there for 10 years.

“It feels good. It was like living in the woods and then going to a house,” Mobley said, adding that for days he and others carried buckets of water to elderly residents who couldn’t.

“Just so they could flush their toilet, you know?” he said.

Mobley said he will take heed to the municipality’s recommendation to find different housing, but it’s not that easy, he said.

“Some of us don’t have cars and resources. There are stores right next door to this complex, so the older people can walk to the store without transportation,” Mobley said.

He also said it takes much longer than eight days to move to another apartment. Residents were given eight days to move out.

“Have you ever tried to move in a week?” he said.

The property’s ownership has been disputed since June 2011, according to court records. The complex was sold through sheriff’s sale in late 2017, which has been challenged legally by PA Real Estate Development, owned by Prasad Marugabandhu. Marugabandhu bought the property for $1,000 through a quitclaim deed in January.

In July, Marugabandhu’s petition to invalidate the sheriff’s sale was denied by an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge and he has since appealed to the state Superior Court.

Meanwhile, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office sent detectives to the building. Mike Manko, the office’s communications director, confirmed that detectives had visited the property but declined to offer any details about the visit.

The attorney representing Valmar Gardens residents was not immediately available to comment.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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