Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
GRAVENHURST — The tragic shooting and death last month that left a community housing neighbourhood marred has been compounded by an “appalling” state of disrepair at the scene say neighbours.
The messy aftermath at the entrance to the Lofty Pines District of Muskoka seniors and low-income housing units is a “sad” daily reminder of what happened, says Lillian Mercer, referring to what she describes as the disorderly state and disrepair surrounding the entryway property.
She says she and others have written, sent photos and complained to the district about the unsightly and “appalling” conditions, which still exist after the June 15 shooting that left Albert Sedore dead by suicide and Jenn (who goes by her first name) injured.
The two were close neighbours.
“I hate coming around the corner. And looking like we live in a slum,” says Mercer, a senior who moved back to Gravenhurst and lives in the rear seniors’ building behind where dozens of community housing units front on to Lofty Pines Drive.
“It’s just terrible. I feel sorry for the guys” — the two sons of the deceased who lived there. But you have to adhere to the rules.”
It’s a stark reminder of that tragic day and neighbours say they just want to move on.
She said: “I’ve spoken to the district several times, myself, about the issue.”
And “many people” have called to complain.
“Many people have sent pictures in to the district.”
“I have called them many times and I know for a fact that they received letters telling them that they had to clean it up. And in one case it was by a Monday — three or four days. And that’s a few weeks ago. That passed. They never cleaned it up.
“They cleaned a little bit up. It was a lot worse than that.”
Two large discarded boxes of garbage, an abandoned fire pit, burnt wood, a turned-over plastic Muskoka chair, a car tire jack, a red cat crate and assorted other pieces of debris lie scattered haphazardly on the public space lawn outside the unit where the shooting took place at the entrance to the housing complex.
The district says it has taken care of the interior cleanup of the affected units, but is not solely responsible for all of the exterior cleanup beyond that.
Arfona Zwiers, commissioner of community and planning services, says “our staff work very closely with the tenants who live in our housing complexes with respect to timelines for things like cleanup.”
Citing the confidentiality and privacy of the tenants, she went on to say “I can absolutely guarantee you that the units in question that had significant cleanup interior of the units, following the really unfortunate incidents, I can guarantee you that that cleanup has occurred.”
Zwiers said that work took place “as soon as we possibly could after the situation happened. And I’m talking about the interior of the units.”
She went on to say: “We understand that there have been some complaints from some of the other tenants at this particular location. We have rules that we use to keep the exterior of the complexes tidy and in a state that other tenants are able to enjoy the locations. And so, what we will do is remind tenants of those rules. And we will work with them to try and obey those rules.”
The public areas, she said, are not the responsibility of tenants to maintain.
However, “If the tenants have contributed to a mess and it involves their vehicle or their personal property, then we have them involved in helping to do the cleanup, she told MuskokaTODAY.com
“But if it gets to a state where we have to become involved and go do the cleanup then we will go do that.”
She added: “I will point out that to date we have not been contacted by the Town of Gravenhurst regarding a property standards complaint.”
Kristin Ford-Bickers, bylaw manager at the town, was away Friday and unavailable to say if there had received any complaints.
Meanwhile, Zwiers said: “We are definitely involved with keeping the site clean. But at a certain point we can go in there clean on a Wednesday at 3 o’clock and then again on Wednesday by 8 o’clock (there’s new debris). That’s a situation which involves some very close working with tenants, which I can guarantee you we are doing.
“I will also add that whenever it appears we have a scenario happen where we have tenants who need some particular extra support from community agencies the other thing we do is try and connect tenants who need supports with other community agencies in order to be able to assist them. And we try and ensure there is a warm introduction, a warm referral process in order to make that happen.
“Again, I’m not speaking about specific tenants. In general if we know that there tenants who are having challenges obeying the rules, maintaining a successful tenancy, we will do whatever we can to help them get the supports they need in their life in order to be able to maintain a successful tenancy.”
District staff do visit the property “regularly,” she said. But the commissioner couldn’t “speak to whether it was daily.”
Asked if either maintenance staff or case workers who would have to have seen the affected area when entering the property hadn’t alerted someone to the problem, Zwiers would only “re-iterate that our staff are working very closely with all the tenants at this location and that would include the tenants that are connected to where the shooting happened.
“But I can’t comment, and a won’t comment, on the specific conversations or any specific actions that are occurring with the immediate family of the deceased.
“Because as a society — and I’m sure you would agree with me — we care about their privacy and we care about them as they go through their grieving process.”
She said those conversations happen daily.
“If neighbours have questions, I would encourage them to contact our office and speak with our staff.”
And if they aren’t satisfied with the response, “I would encourage the neighbours to call back in to our staff.”
“Our staff are absolutely a very caring and knowledgeable and expertise group of people and we are very ready to serve the tenants who live in our complexes…. We take their life outcomes very seriously and we want the best outcomes for them.”
Zwiers did add: “I don’t think it serves any purpose to have neighbours who already may be feeling like their lives are very vulnerable; I don’t think it serves any purpose to use the media as the way to get them the responses.”
Neighour Bill Stephenson, who “got along” with the family, said he recently asked them about the cleanup, but they indicated to him it wasn’t a priority.
And they are moving anyway early next month, he said.
A family member confirmed they’ve been asked to relocate.
28 years of ‘Local Online Journalism’
Twitter: @muskokatoday, Facebook: mclairmont1
Leave comments at end of story
SUBSCRIBE for $25 by e-transferring to firstname.lastname@example.org
Or go online to https://muskokatoday.com/subscriptions