'Our first priority is our residents:' Crews work to get Sabal Chase Apartments back open


Several contracting companies and dozens of employees have been working day and night at the Sabal Chase Apartments after Hurricane Irma flooded all of the first floor apartments.

There are 340 apartment units at the Sabal Chase Apartments, with 144 on the first floor.

Everyone from the first floor units had to be evacuated.

Anna Short, the regional property manager, said they're doing everything they can to get the units back open.

“As soon as the water went down and we were able to get trucks in here we started the process of getting things torn out,” she said. “As quickly as we could we started the tear out, we've got several crews working day and night making sure we can get everything done.”

Short added that officials with the county have been working with them to expedite their permits.

“They’re taking out everything from the floors, dry wall, cabinetry, the countertops," Short said. "Checking the HVAC systems, the electrical, the hot water tanks, the electrical panels."

Although the first floor was hit the hardest, they’re not the only ones being fixed.

“Second and third floors, we've walked all of them," Short said. "We've determined what their needs are, what needs to be done. We have contractors working in those units as well to make sure they're completely taken care of."

Lakisha Heath was happy to hear the other apartment units in the complex are being taken care of as well.

Heath rents a second floor apartment with her friend and they each have children.

She said they left the apartment complex before the hurricane expecting to return to an untouched apartment.

While their apartment was technically untouched, it was still damaged.

“There was a crazy scent," Heath said. "It smelled like something was just rotten. Because the electric hadn’t been on, our food was gone. There were bugs everywhere, like infested. All kinds of stuff got in our apartment, in our clothes in everything. It was really bad. We are just going day by day. We had to pull our stuff out of our apartment though and put it in storage.”

They're currently staying with family.

Heath said it’s just hard not having somewhere to call home, especially since she works from home.

"It puts things in a whole different level when work and home are like the same thing,” she said.

As she takes things day by day, she’s waiting to hear from the apartment complex and FEMA.

“We are working as hard as possible to get out residents in as quickly as we can, Short said. "We definitely want to do the process correctly and the right way but making sure that our first priority is our residents and getting them back home."

Each resident was given their security deposit back, prorated rent and $500 from Harmony Housing.

Short said when each resident was given their money back, they made sure they had updated contact information for them.

“We’ll be reaching out to them as soon as the unit is ready,” she said.

Heath is hoping that’s sooner rather than later.

“This is just unimaginably hard,” she said. “This is really difficult, having to go to work, having to send your kids to school and not knowing what's going to happen or where you're going to live.”

Heath works in customer service and said this whole experience has opened her eyes.

She believes you can never be prepared for something like this and is asking everyone to be compassionate when you meet someone because “you never know what people are going through.”

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