Lost Creek residents still concerned about safety

This is a Dumpster at Lost Creek, a senior living community in Marquette Township. Residents are concerned about having to walk to Dumpsters as opposed to the former policy of trash being picked up at their doors. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Residents of Lost Creek, an independent living community in Marquette Township, say they continue to have problems with trash and snow removal.

In August, 126 Lost Creek residents signed a petition against the new trash policy, which requires them to carry their garbage from the residences to Dumpsters on the property — some of which are not located close to their doors. The petition also asked that the former door-to-door service continue.

Lorraine Leidholdt, a Lost Creek resident who has been closely following these issues, said Lost Creek currently has only four Dumpsters for the entire complex.

“That’s the problem,” Leidholdt said. “Some people cannot get there because they’re wheelchair-bound or too crippled or too fearful to walk across an icy street.”

Neighbors try to help each other, she said, but she acknowledged that it’s not up to those neighbors to put trash in their cars and drive it to a Dumpster. Instead, they were given advice, such as calling 2-1-1 or a senior center for assistance. However, they were told those agencies don’t have the personnel to help.

Leidholdt said weather conditions during the Christmas weekend, when a major blizzard hit the area, caused a special problem when residents were snowed in due to a lack of Lost Creek staff able to help.

To get access to the outside world, she said they had to shovel 3 or 4 feet of snow, which could have been problematic in the event of a medical emergency.

Leidholdt said she was told that the maintenance staff, which consisted of two employees at the time, had permission to go out of town. One employee was stuck downstate, while the other employee who was in town finally took care of the shoveling.

A letter dated Dec. 27 was sent to Leidholdt from Brittany Blackburn, property manager of Lost Creek. KMG Prestige, based in downstate Mount Pleasant, is the company that oversees Lost Creek, which is owned by Community Action Alger-Marquette.

Blackburn apologized for the Christmas holiday situation.

She called the blizzard “a storm that was tough to stay ahead of” and one that caused many people to be inconvenienced around the holiday.

“Our staff did the best they could and came in on several occasions to ensure that our residents would be able to spend time with their families or get to where they needed to be,” Blackburn wrote.

Blackburn said that one of the employees came in on the Friday of the Christmas weekend to remove snow from the sidewalks, salt the areas and ensure that the residents could get in and out of their homes before the storm hit. That Saturday, the employee came in for five hours to remove the accumulated snow and remove drifts, while on Sunday, he returned for eight hours to clean up in the storm’s aftermath.

“I know with the continual snow, and the never-ending harsh winds, it may have seemed like no one was on site, but please understand that our team was there working hard against Mother Nature,” Blackburn wrote.

Blackburn also pointed out that in the future, if there is a pending storm, Lost Creek will have both its maintenance technicians on call so snow removal can be accomplished in a more timely manner.

Michelle LaJoie, executive director of Community Action Alger-Marquette, said CAAM owns Lost Creek but KMG Prestige was hired for the day-to-day operations.

Regarding issues at the complex, LaJoie indicated that residents need to talk with KMG first and resolve problems at that level, although this depends on the situation.

LaJoie pointed out that the staff was available during the Christmas storm, and did “the best they could” during that time.

“It was snow that was the problem,” she said. “I think we need to get that in perspective.”

Marquette Township Fire Chief Dan Shanahan said the National Fire Protection Association code dictates that there has to be a clear exit from buildings under these circumstances.

Shanahan said the Marquette Township Fire Department had been contacted about the Lost Creek situation, but the situation had been resolved.

“We hope people do their best,” said Shanahan, who noted the MTFD will investigate a similar issue, or remind people that snow should be removed if it sees a problem.

Downstate help

Disability Rights Michigan, based in Lansing, is involved with the Lost Creek situation.

DRM is the federally designated protection and advocacy agency in the state of Michigan. It serves the entire state and offers information and referral, self-advocacy assistance, community education, outreach and training. Its services are free and confidential, and individuals can contact the agency at 517-487-1755 or visit its website at drmich.org.

“An individual contacted DRM for assistance in this matter,” said Rachel Huddleston, DRM director of communications, in an email. “A disability rights advocate contacted the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan after no reply from KMG.

“DRM is monitoring the situation as the FHC is investigating claims against KMG.”

Huddleston said the advocate suggested that property managers should participate in an interactive discussion surrounding accommodation requests. The advocate also pointed to an explanation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that indicates “the housing provider should recognize that the individual requesting the accommodation or modification is most familiar with his or her disability and is in the best position to determine what type of aid or service will be effective to meet a disability-related need.”

Leidholdt pointed out that the apartments receive state funds for senior citizens age 55 and older, with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority providing the funds for reduced rent.

Leidholdt said that Lost Creek is considered an “independent living” community.

“That doesn’t mean we can do everything we did when we were 28,” she said.

Kelly Beach, regional property manager for KMG Prestige, said that over the course of six months, the company met with some residents individually, some residents in group settings, and some residents both individually and in group settings.

“Our overall goal during this process was to find solutions that would be able to accommodate each individual request, as applicable,” Beach said in an email.

The KMG Prestige office received more than four dozen reasonable accommodations and over the course of those six months, met with its attorney and MSHDA to brainstorm alternative methods to each of their specific needs, she said.

“Although we cannot continue with the weekly trash pick-up service from door-to-Dumpster, Lost Creek is continuing to accept and research alternative methods that might be an additional option and allow a win-win solution for all,” Beach said.

She noted that some of the suggestions implemented so far have been:

≤ opening dumpster lids from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday when the weather is clear from falling snow and ice;

≤ adding a residential Dumpster near each six-yard Dumpster for use as needed; and

≤ adding additional carts in the apartment buildings that residents are welcome to use.

“We were also able to suggest a handful of options that individual residents could contact from volunteers or vendors who would perform the service for a nominal fee,” Beach said. “Because our Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s weather can present inclement situations, Lost Creek maintenance staff has been doing everything in their power to keep the sidewalks clear during the winter months.

“We ask all residents and guests to take caution during storms so that our team has an appropriate amount of time to remove the snow and ice and create safe passages. We ask those who head out and about for any reason to use that time frame as an opportunity to remit their personal trash into the receptacles provided. We are open to suggestions that will continue to help our residents live independently as long as possible.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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