When William Dennis Foster Jr. came to the Ridgewood Retirement Community in 2007, his family said the facility was a welcoming and attractive alternative to many assisted living centers around Beaumont.
“When he first went there, that was a real good place,” said Reggie Stevenson, Foster’s brother in-law. “They had good food. They had games and stuff.”
But within a few months, Foster was having problems adjusting to his surroundings. Part of the problem is the nature of Foster’s illness. Foster — a paranoid schizophrenic with 100 percent disability after his service in the Vietnam War — must have a constant and supervised regiment of psychotic drugs. To ensure his timely dosage, Foster’s family said they wrote manager Tera Windt a check of $200 every month on top of their monthly rent.
“I’d write a $200 check and just leave it blank,” Stevenson said.
Foster would eventually have a seizure, prompting his family to rush to his aid. But when they approached Windt for Foster’s medications, the Stevensons would be surprised to find no medications were there.
“Tera said that she had his medicine at her house and that she had been dispensing his medicine to him,” Stevenson said. “There was a big blow-up.”
Eventually, Windt brought the medications back after the verbal argument between Foster’s family and Windt.
“Her husband brought his medications back up to Ridgewood and we went and got them and pulled him out the next day,” Stevenson said.
Windt was later fired, along with her husband, after Foster’s family said she had Ridgewood’s cook and/or the maintenance man disperse Foster’s medication.
But unlicensed dispersal of medication isn’t the only problem at Ridgewood.
In May, The Examiner first exposed conditions at Ridgewood the city’s health department found to be substandard. During the health inspections, officials found the kitchen, pool and other amenities to be completely unsanitary and unsafe, prompting a letter to the owner of Ridgewood — Samuel Pinter of New York — that addressed the infractions.
Former Houston Mayor Bill White called Pinter a “slum landlord” after the city ordered Pinter to pay $100,000 concerning a property later condemned by the city for plumbing, electrical and structural problems, and $44.8 million for federal mortgage fraud in July 2010 in a U.S. District Court in New York.
Closer to home, according to health inspectors, Ridgewood had a kitchen that was “in very bad condition and very dirty. Coolers and refrigerators were not working properly and mold was found on the food left inside these coolers.”
The walk-in cooler was at 80 degrees and had spoiled food inside.
“Front refrigerator, 70 degrees; pork in front refrigerator, 96 degrees,” the health inspector states.
The inspectors found at least two kitchen employees were not certified to handle food. The city’s health department also cited Ridgewood for mold in numerous locations, especially near areas where a leaky roof has inundated parts of the facility.
Since the May inspections, which provided a deadline to have the problems resolved, it seems the health department’s warnings have fallen on deaf ears. According to a July 3 inspection record recently obtained by The Examiner, health inspectors noted that “German cockroaches were still present in the food preparation facility and that the overall condition of the kitchen had declined since the last inspection (June 18). The pool is also not yet completed.”
If Ridgewood has been unable, or unwilling, to fix its health citation until now, it seems the city is ready to do its part to hold Ridgewood accountable.
In an interview with Community Development Director Chris Boone, the city’s top building code enforcement official said Wednesday that building inspectors outside the jurisdiction of the health department had inspected the facility the week of July 22 and found it to be unacceptable.
Boone said the city’s next move is to give Ridgewood a warning letter outlining the dangerous conditions and a timeline to fix them, adding that Ridgewood would have five to seven business days to have the pool, kitchen, leaky roof and possible mold remediated.
If Ridgewood has still not complied with the city’s warning within five to seven days, “We’ll turn around and file a complaint with the Municipal Court and it will be a court action,” Boone said.
Although Boone would not comment directly on when the city’s legal department would draft and cite Ridgewood with a warning, he hinted the warning forcing Ridgewood to address the infractions could come in a matter of days.
Looking back on his brother in-law’s plight, Stevenson said the signs were there that Ridgewood was deteriorating.
“It was a real good place at first, but then this new guy bought it and it has started to go downhill,” Stevenson said. “Dennis would call and tell us that, and I would believe about half of what he was saying. I should have paid more attention.”