Months after Florence, Jervay residents ask Wilmington for help

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Management company says some residents will be able to return in mid-June.

WILMINGTON — Jervay’s first resident stood in front of Wilmington City Council on Tuesday and asked the city to help her and her neighbors recover from Hurricane Florence.

Acquanetta McNeil and her family moved into the newly renovated Jervay Place off of Dawson Street in 2004. About 14 years later, McNeil and the other residents of Jervay’s 100 units were told in November they would need to leave while repairs were made to mold or storm damage at 86 of the complex’s apartments.

“I’m here asking council today to please help us in this situation because it’s like we have no recourse,” McNeil told city council. “We’ve been told, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’ so many times that we get tired of hearing it.”

McNeil is staying in Riegelwood, commuting between 20 and 30 minutes each way to Wilmington for work while suffering health effects she attributes to the stress of fallout from the hurricane. Initially, McNeil said, she was told repairs would be made in three to six months, a period that has come to an end without repairs.

In an email Tuesday, Laura Karl, a development associate for Telesis, Jervay’s management company, wrote, “Five of the nine buildings impacted by the hurricane are currently being repaired and renovated and are set to be completed. Reoccupancy will commence in the middle of June.”

Contractors are, Karl added, continuing restoration efforts on the four remaining buildings and will restore roofs to those buildings once that work is completed.

Residents who were told they needed to leave the community while repairs were underway will have a right to return to their units, Karl wrote, adding the management company and general contractor are both fielding questions from residents.

“Management has maintained frequent contact with residents displaced by damage and relevant agencies,” Karl wrote, “including the housing authority.”

That does not, McNeil said, match the reality she and other Jervay residents are experiencing. For instance, McNeil said nobody has told residents they can access storage containers located within Jervay’s main loop Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Bill Saffo, Wilmington’s mayor, said council does not have many options because Jervay is a privately owned community, as are many of the other storm-damaged affordable housing options such as Market North and The Glen.

“The only thing that we can continue to do is to press the issue and to ask these people to please address these folks because they’re our citizens,” Saffo said, “and in some cases they may have nowhere else to go.”

Beulah Carr, another Jervay resident, attended Tuesday’s meeting but did not speak. Initially, Carr said she was told repairs would take three to six months, a period that has since passed.

“It’s appalling,” Carr said. “I want to go home. I just want to go home. I’m way stressed out.”

A tree fell on the third floor of Carr’s apartment building, causing water and mold to flood into her second-floor apartment. Unlike other residents who moved out in November, Carr was forced out of her home in the days after Hurricane Florence impacted the area.

“I haven’t seen my personal stuff in almost nine months,” Carr said, adding she is living with a niece.

In her remarks to council, McNeil also called on policy makers to develop a plan for housing in the aftermath of future disasters, knowing hurricanes and other events are likely to result in a loss of affordable housing.

McNeil said, “I am a planted Wilmingtonian. I’ve been here my whole life, and to have been pushed out like I was and (I) literally felt like I had been abandoned and forgotten about was just unacceptable.”

During a trip to Washington D.C. last week, Saffo discussed affordable housing with the Pew Charitable Trust, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and members of Congress. Ideally, Saffo said, there would be a way to help the U.S. Department of Housing and Affordable Development fund housing efforts in the aftermath of a disaster.

“It’s a glaring hole right now in our relief efforts at the federal level,” Saffo said, “and we’re going to need federal-level help, but also (help at) the state level to help make it happen.”

Reporter Adam Wagner can be reached at 910-343-2389 or