City leaders in Meriden said Thursday that they'll make sure tenants forced out of their apartments after Wednesday's wall collapse will have a place to live.
"The city is prepared to help get new apartments including first month's rent, first month security deposit, moving truck and van," said Thomas Kilroy, Meriden's Chief Housing Inspector.
Between 50 and 60 people lived in about 18 units on the condemned East Main Street property, according to city officials.
They said the wall collapsed in the rear of the building around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and forced everyone out. Some tenants were unable to return to retrieve their belongings.
"I was home when they came knocking at door," said Anais Vargas, one of the tenants. "Had to leave and evacuate. Grabbed everything I could and there was a big hole in the building. We didn't know what to do."
City officials addressed concerns Thursday at a local hotel.
"Where's the landlord? Police?" asked tenant Ramona Torres. "That's a fantastic question. We're going to find out."
Officials said they provided the displaced residents with a list of area landlords that have close to the same rent as they were paying.
No one was allowed back into the building without a police escort. Police said they will be patrolling the area Thursday night and looking for looters.
They said two minors were arrested for trespassing so far.
Past issues reported at building collapse
The city's building official, William Lussier, said, about a year ago, they were notified about a potentially problematic part of the wall. That piece did not collapse, but apparently was right near the collapse.
"They said going to fix outside, do this, do that," Torres said. "They were going to make changes."
Lussier sent a letter to the landlord on May 8 in which it stated "that the brick wall is deteriorated and has a distinct bulge. Letter also said there is "numerous cracks and loose bricks are present."
City officials told the landlord to hire a professional "to determine the extent of the damage and present a plan indicating your course of action." No exact date was given.
"(It was) supposed to be produced around Christmas time," Lussier said.
Lussier sent a second letter to the landlord on Oct. 31.
"If this order is not addressed by you within five days, the city will retain the services of a structural engineering to evaluate the condition of the building," the letter stated.
Lussier admitted on Thursday a city engineer was sent for the first time Wednesday.
"If we thought, it was dangerous woulda done something at time," Lussier said. "This sorta thing happens all the time, unfortunately this one collapsed."
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City steps in to help residents after wall collapse in MeridenMore>>
Dozens of people were displaced after a wall partially collapsed at a Meriden building on Wednesday morning, and now officers are keeping watch over the condemned building to ensure looters don't get in."AroundMore >
Dozens of people were displaced after a wall partially collapsed at a Meriden building on Wednesday morning, and now officers are keeping watch over the condemned building to ensure looters don't get in.More >