Situation improved by end of week
Walkways and doorways at the subsidized Twisp Garden Apartments were clear by the end of last week, but residents were concerned that they’d had to wait for days as snow slid off roofs and blocked doors and paths. The weight of the snow had also damaged roof dormers and a storage shed.
Several residents said they repeatedly called the Housing Authority of Okanogan County, which operates the complex, to alert them that the massive snow piles had created an unsafe situation. The apartments are designated for people 55 and over and for those with disabilities.
Housing Authority Executive Director Nancy Nash-Méndez came to Twisp from their Omak headquarters to survey the situation on Friday (Jan. 13). This winter, as huge amounts of snow topped by rain wreaked havoc around the county, it was difficult to find a contractor available for snow removal, Nash-Méndez told the Methow Valley News.
Twisp Gardens has a live-in, part-time site manager who’s responsible for general maintenance, shoveling and de-icing walkways, and clearing the parking lot. But this year, there was so much snow that there’s no place to put it, Nash-Méndez said. The weight of the wet snow also made removal more difficult, she said.
Housing authority staff couldn’t clear the sidewalks and parking lot until they found someone with heavy equipment to remove the snow — and an authorized, off-site place to put it, Nash-Méndez said. “It’s all icing up — it’s no longer straightforward,” she said. “It’s a new level of logistics.”
Moreover, the town of Twisp had left heaps of snow near the building, blocking tenants from reaching the driveway, and those piles also had to be cleared, she said.
The situation had improved since Nash-Méndez found a contractor last Wednesday to take the mounds of snow off-site.
While the housing authority is concerned about tenants’ safety, the complex is no different from other apartment buildings, and tenants live independently in their own apartments and don’t receive extra services, Nash-Méndez said. The authority’s snow-removal policy specifies that snow should be removed when the storm stops, she said.
The on-site manager and a tenant are responsible for notifying the housing authority’s property manager about safety issues and other concerns, Nash-Méndez said. The manager oversees 11 properties throughout the county, she said.
Methow At Home (MAH) Program Director Tracy Sprauer checked out the situation at Twisp Gardens last week, since several MAH members live there and some had raised concerns about safety. If people don’t feel safe going in and out, they can grow more isolated, Sprauer said.
The design of the apartment buildings and the amount of snow make it a very difficult situation, Sprauer said. Snow has been shedding in front of windows, so residents can’t see outside. Snow has also been collapsing onto walkways. There’s no access to the back doors in the winter, Sprauer said.
Twisp Gardens tenants were pleased that the situation had improved on Friday. But one tenant said it was “a disaster” two days before, when walks were icy and blocked by mounds of snow. The piles that had accumulated from snow sliding off the roof were so high that tenants’ doors opened onto an impenetrable wall of snow, she said.
Concerns about the snow tapped into existing frustrations among some tenants at the complex, who said there’s been a pattern of neglect for years. They allege that the site manager is rarely available and works very few hours. “There are problems every year. Nothing is taken care of — we have to beg and plead,” said one resident.
The tenants look after each other. One resident said she did what she could to shovel and clear snow from roofs to help her older neighbors. “The snow on roofs comes down fast and hard — it’ll kill them,” she said.
Earlier in the week, a resident wrote to the housing authority about what she described as an “emergency situation.” She said the sidewalks hadn’t been salted and the icy conditions made it treacherous, preventing her from checking on a neighbor.
The tenants acknowledged that there had been an unprecedented amount of snow this winter. But they were concerned that the housing authority wasn’t taking the necessary steps to prepare for the next storm.
Tenants were relieved by the progress on Friday, as an experienced site manager from another of the housing authority’s properties cleared snow. “They’re here; they’re going to address it,” one resident said.