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NEW CONTROVERSIES EMBROIL: Aspen Heights student apartments

From high crime to high utility bills.  Parent-management meeting planned. 
 
COLUMBIA, Mo 1/31/14 (Beat Byte) -- Aspen Heights student apartment tenants have added high utility bills to a litany of complaints they've been discussing with each other on a Facebook page that includes parents paying the bills.

Controversial since it was first announced for the Regency Mobile Home Park site in south Columbia, Aspen Heights has been troubled by crime and construction problems since it opened last summer. 

Utility bill and security concerns dominated a "tense" meeting yesterday between tenants and management, KOMU reported.   The apartment's corporate managers plan to meet with parents about the complaints Saturday.

"I can't wait to get my daughter out of here in the spring," wrote Michael Savage on the Aspen Heights CoMo Facebook forum.  Savage cited "crappy construction" and crime.

An armed gunman robbed two women at Aspen Heights last month.  A woman was raped at the complex in November.  And in a 6-week period last fall, "Columbia Police Department statistics showed Aspen Heights experienced six burglaries, an assault, a DUI, an alcohol violation and a drug violation," KRCG reported.  

Management enacted strict new security rules in October that included new visitor and guest policies. 

High utillity bills are a new issue.  "Anyone else wondering about utility bills?" Katie Admire asked the FB group last month.  "We cut back drastically on electricity this month so we were surprised that it was almost twice as much (over $400)." 

After his daughter received a $390 electric bill, parent Martin Schmelzle said he had the city perform an energy audit.  "The mixed results are that the building my daughter is in is up to code," he wrote.  "However, the heating/cooling units are positioned in such a way as to be very inefficient in our climate."  

Repeated contact with Aspen Heights management prompted the company to "do a thorough inspection," Schmelzle explained.  But without lower bills or a utility subsidy in the rent, "I cannot imagine even one lease renewal for next year," he added. 

Others are more aggressive.  "I am a parent that is planning to take legal action against Aspen Heights for this and other issues," Steve Pizzolato told KOMU reporter Emily Hauger last week, after she inquired about the problems on the Facebook page.   "The Aspen Heights complex and management needs to be shut down and taken to court." 

Based in Austin, Texas, Aspen Heights executives will send a "corporate ambassador" to a Columbia parent-management forum planned Saturday in Fenton, Missouri, general manager Tyler Yates told the Facebook group.  "I greatly value feedback and communication from you, parents, and residents," he told the group. 

"As a resident of Aspen Heights that's completely satisfied with it," Robert O'Neill criticized group members for acting "like a bunch of whiny children that don't get their way." 

The idea Aspen Heights "isn't making an effort to improve security/utilities/etc. is absolutely ridiculous," O'Neill wrote.  Since the utility bill complaints surfaced, for instance, Aspen Heights announced a "winter cap" on electric bills limiting them to no more than $75/month for December, January and February.  

"Every off-campus housing place in the city of Columbia shares this problem," O'Neill explained.  "Don't be fooled into thinking this is an Aspen Heights specific issue."

 
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