A long road home
Amy Wilkins did not enjoy living in a hotel.
She didn't like that her cat Cinderz was stuck in a cage at an animal clinic. She also didn't like doing her laundry with coin operator machines while hanging her wet clothing on the legs of a coffee table or the enveloping darkness of her temporary room.
But more than those inconveniences, the feeling of being stuck in purgatory between her old life living in Keiser
and her new life, which was first put on hold due to construction delays and then again because of the fire that ravaged the Villebois community in March, was particularly straining.
Wilkins, Forrest Welk and other new owners of condos in the Sienna building in Villebois have spent much of 2019
waiting for installations and repairs to be completed so
they could move into their
new homes and were frustrated by a perceived lack of communication and sense of ur-
gency from either Poly-
gon Homes (the developer) or Pinnacle (the property manager).
"You think you're going to move in in January at the latest, maybe, and here we are, it's almost June," Welk said. "That's where the main frustration is I think."
A rocky start
Wilkins bought a new condo in Wilsonville last year in part to move closer to her manufacturing job. But after receiving word from Pinnacle about the delays in January, she had to extend her Keiser rental lease into February and then into March.
Polygon Homes and Pinnacle did not respond to the Spokesman's repeated requests for comment, but a letter from Polygon to Wilkins stated that the developer was awaiting the delivery of an item for the elevator. Wilsonville Building Official Dan Carlson said a disagreement between the state fire inspector and the installer of fire sprinklers may have contributed to the delay.
The wait lasted much longer than Welks and Wilkins expected, but by March 30, it was seemingly behind them. Finally, after waiting over two months, Welk, Wilkins and others could spend their first night in their new home — or so they thought.
A rude awakening
At about 1 a.m. March 31, her first night in her new home, Wilkins woke up hearing a faint siren and screams while Welk remembers seeing a bright orange glow on the back of a nearby building.
Once they realized what had happened — a fire destroyed the condominium building next door as well as nearby townhouses — Welk raced out the door to drive his car out of his garage that was dangerously close to the fire and Wilkins fled to her mother's house.
Both were worried that on their first night in their new home, they had lost everything.
"Initially, shock. I couldn't help but laugh to be honest with you. What are the chances, right? And then frustration set in," Welk said.
That frustration would linger for months. The fire never engulfed their building, which sits next to the destroyed condo building, but did leave behind ample siding and window damage. And repairs such as replacing elevator transformers and fire doors were needed before anyone could move back into the building.
Welk said Pinnacle held a meeting a few days after the fire and gave the impression that the homeowners could move back into their homes in three to four weeks. But the delay extended much longer and communication between Pinnacle and Polygon and the homeowners was sporadic. While Wilkins stayed in a hotel and her insurance company covered her stay, Welk stayed at his parent's house. Meanwhile, they still had to pay their mortgage and homeowners association dues, though Pinnacle waived dues for the month of June.
"I was working with State Farm to try to get compensation to pay my parents for room and boarding, and I know other neighbors are going through State Farm to pay for their hotels, and State Farm has said they're only going to cover two weeks of displacement," Welk said. "I know there's people who are paying out of pocket as well as paying a mortgage here."
After fire investigators completed their on-site analysis and the building was no longer cordoned off, Welk and Wilkins grabbed a few things from their new homes but most of their belongings remained.
"Being away from your belongings and being uncertain about what's going on in this building has really taken a toll on my attention," Wilkins said. "I get easily distracted at work. And I feel like I'm just a ditz right now because my mind is constantly occupied."
Then in mid-May, many weeks after the fire, they received word that Portland General Electric wasn't scheduled to install the elevator transformer for four to six weeks.
Moving up timeline
Not believing Pinnacle or Polygon to be much help, Wilkins decided to take matters into her own hands. She organized a homeowners meeting and called Portland General Electric and the City of Wilsonville to find out more information about the delays and why it was taking so long for them to return to their homes.
"It's really frustrating when we're the ones having to do the heavy lifting, reaching out to building officials to get the latest," Welk said.
After hearing from Wilkins about the homeowners' plight, Carlson called PGE Customer Service Manager Tiffany Delgado, who agreed to move up the timeline from four to six weeks to one week. Sure enough, the City inspected the installed transformer last Thursday and Welk, Wilkins and others moved in that night.
"I don't usually jump between a contractor and PGE. I don't usually get involved. I just felt they needed to know what the circumstances were," Carlson said. "Once Tiffany knew, she jumped right on it. My hat's to her for making it happen."
PGE Communications official Steven Corson said the reason for the initial elongated timeline was because of the complexity of the project, which included repairing
multiple transformers, un-
derground cables and a vault, and because PGE did not
know about the residents' trying situation until Carlson called.
"For that (the initial extended timeline), we apologize, but as soon as we became aware of that we moved as quickly as we could to get that project completed," he said.
Prior to the resolution, Welk said he still felt jumpy due to the trauma of the fire and surmised that the first couple nights back in the condo would be weird. Wilkins, for her part, had a creeping feeling that something was going to go wrong again in the days leading up to her return home. But exactly two months after her first frightful night there, she and Cinderz had a relaxing slumber.
"It was very restful. My cat was purring all night long. She was so happy to be at home and with me," Wilkins said.