JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – We’re learning new information on the Town Center Apartments in Jacksonville, a story WNCT has been following for two years.

In August of 2021, residents were told they needed to leave the apartment because of safety hazards. But, after new ownership, there are still around 100 residents living in the apartments.

Town Center residents concerned about where to live next, current state of complex

Now the future of the complex is uncertain again following the latest Jacksonville City Council meeting. Residents have been left confused and worried about where to go after a note showed up on their doors to vacate by March 19. It’s all because of an outstanding water bill.

In January, the city council confirmed there was a large sum owed to them.

“I don’t appreciate it being stated that we owe a $60,000 bill when we’re really owed credits for being charged for something we didn’t do,” said Community Executive Officer for Community Investment Group, Brad Newton.

The owners argue they’ve been covering water charges with units left empty.

“We have meters that are tied to other meters where there are no people living. If you look at the attached bills that are on here, you’ll see zero-gallon usage and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars that we’ve continued to pay,” said Stephen Southern, Community Investment Officer for Community Investment Group. 

Newton added they’re forcing the residents to leave out of fear of the water being shut off. Following all of the comments regarding Town Center during Tuesday’s council meeting, the city attorney said all apartments must be treated in accordance with the law, and deals over the water fees are not fair to others.

“We had told them in writing, no water will be cut off at Town Center unless the city council gives direction and the council has not given any direction to cut any water off,” said John Carter, city attorney for the City of Jacksonville. “The council has not sent you a 30-day eviction notice. That is from CIG (Community Investment Group).”

Now, residents are uneasy about the future because many cannot afford other apartment complexes or find any available.

“This is where I grew up. I know this area like the back of my hand, and it’s just sad the way everything has happened,” said one Town Center Resident, Jasmine Hucks.

All say they are praying for a resolution to make everyone happy.

“I don’t understand why they didn’t just be truthful with us? Just tell us about what was going on,” said Joyce Mason, another Town Center resident. “If they don’t come up with a compromise, we’re gonna have to leave. But I don’t know where we’re going.”

The City of Jacksonville partnered with Onslow Community Outreach to help Town Center residents with their first and last month’s rent as well as other deposits for relocating.

To find more information from Onslow Community Outreach, click here.

To watch the full city council meeting, click here.

The City of Jacksonville released a statement Wednesday that read:

Jacksonville City Council heard public comment during the Regular Council Meeting on February 21, 2023. Individuals including Town Center residents, apartment management staff and representatives from the current owners of Town Center Apartments spoke about their concerns of the ongoing issues surrounding the future of the 694 rentals units and resident concerns about having a safe and affordable place to live in Jacksonville.  

City Attorney, John Carter responded to questions raised about the City actions and efforts of assistance regarding issues at the site and provided clarification for the public. Carter specifically stated. “State law governs an enterprise system, and one enterprise system is our water and sewer bill. …Council cannot co-mingle these funds with the General Fund, they must be kept separately. You are accountable to your rate payers.” 

Carter added, “In regard to the North Carolina statute, we believe that the owners of Town Center have been treated fairly over the issue of unpaid bills. In clarification, the law states that everyone has to be treated the same. Council does not have the authority to change the statute but apply it consistently to all rate payers.” 

Carter further stated, “This is a legal issue, not only regarding the issue of unpaid utilities and the current state statutes, but is also a legal matter as a result of statements like these made to Council, myself and the City Manager.” 

He added that, “As a reminder to Council, there was a time when the water was shut off at Town Center. After that Council gave a directive that the City shall not cut off the water unless Council approves the cutoff. The Town Center attorney asked for that statement in writing, which I provided to them and shared that with Council at a previous meeting. Council has not given any directive to cut the water off to date. The Council has not sent you (Town Center tenants) a 30 day eviction notice. The eviction notice came from Town Center Owners CIG, not the Council.”  

The City Attorney and City Manager will continue to brief and provide to Council moving forward and Council will give direction. The staff and Council desire to continue working with CIG in their rehabbing of these units, in accordance with state law and City ordinances.”