After more than a year of allowing his facility to languish in disrepair, the owner of the Ridgewood Retirement Community on I-10 near 11th Street says he’s closing his doors, kicking his aging residents out and selling the decaying retirement home.
Samuel Pinter of New York owns Ridgewood and put the facility up for sale at the beginning of October for $1.1 million. But a prospective buyer might be turned off by the cost of needed repairs to the facility.
In May, The Examiner first exposed conditions at Ridgewood that 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 Pinter 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 in Houston for plumbing, electrical and structural problems, and that was on top of $44.8 million Pinter paid 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 kitchen has since been fixed and the black-water pool drained, but more problems surfaced at Ridgewood.
After city building code inspectors made their way to the facility, they found numerous locations where a leaky roof had inundated many of the 90-plus rooms upstairs and downstairs over the years. Some patchwork was done to alleviate some of the leaks, but the city quickly issued a stop work order on Monday, Oct. 7, after Ridgewood’s maintenance man was fired by Pinter.
The maintenance man, Phillip Copeland, said he was fired for getting too close to city inspectors who refused to allow Pinter to work on the roof and numerous electrical issues without a permit.
But Faye Bowman, Pinter’s regional director, told a different story. Bowman said Copeland was a liar and was fired for not completing work to Pinter’s specifications.
“I think he sabotaged a lot of stuff,” Bowman said of Copeland, who worked at Ridgewood part-time for less than three months.
Bowman went so far as to blame Copeland for “cutting holes in my ceiling,” to fix damage inside that was likely caused by a leaky roof.
“I know Phillip put holes in my walls,” Bowman said.
As for an Oct. 14 letter informing residents at Ridgewood that they would have to find another place to live on or before Oct. 31, Bowman said Ridgewood will help its remaining 18 residents find a place in one of Pinter’s other Houston or Pasadena facilities.
“I announced that yesterday to all my residents,” Bowman said. “And as I told them, we are going to help them find places. Until the last resident walks out that door, that door will not be locked.”
According to an Adult Protective Services worker familiar with the case, Ridgewood’s management must give residents 30 days notice before requiring them to move.
Bowman, Pinter’s regional corporate manager, denied knowing the facility was in need of repairs for the past year.
“We didn’t know the AC was out. We didn’t know the chillers (in the kitchen) were out,” she said. “We didn’t know this was going on because of bad management.”
Boyd Meier, Beaumont’s lead building code inspector, said Ridgewood’s problems stem directly from a leaky roof that was not fixed when the problem first began. He said had Ridgewood and Pinter maintained the property properly, they wouldn’t be in this position.
“It wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been taken care of on a maintenance basis. Now, you’ve got entire roof areas that need to be completely replaced because they’ve been neglected,” he said. “Back then they could have done it a little bit at a time and it would have been OK. But now that they neglected the roof, the roof leaks rotted the decking, from there it went into the insulation, into the sheetrock. The sheetrock caved in and messed up the carpet, the decking under the carpet, and then it went to the bottom floor. It just progressed, and they’ve got a disaster in some of these rooms. It’s gonna cost a lot more money.”
Meier said he was disappointed in Pinter, who he thought was making progress until he received notice that Pinter was kicking his residents out.
“They were progressing slowly, but there were progressing,” Meier said. “And then this came up.”
Meier said it is in Beaumont’s best interest to keep the facility open, not adding to the list of abandoned buildings that dot Beaumont’s landscape.
“The city of Beaumont wants you to stay open. That’s why we have a property maintenance program instead of just a substandard program where we tag the building and pull the power and run you off and shut you down,” Meier said. “We want to promote businesses in Beaumont.”
But if Pinter and company refuse to make the repairs or fight with the city regarding what work can and can’t be done without a permit, Meier said residents won’t move to the 90-plus room Ridgewood, regardless of what action the city takes.
“You need to fix these things,” Meier said. “You can’t get people back in here with the condition that place is in.”