Committee will tackle Berea’s problem block

Councillor Chris Pappas is working to address issues at Excelsior Court.

A COMMITTEE, made up of concerned residents has been formed to deal with Excelsior Court in Berea. According to ward councillor Chris Pappas, who has spent the past three months investigating the controversy surrounding this condemned building, he managed to organise a meeting between residents who live close to the festering property, SAPS and officials from the Department of Public Works.

“Residents raised a number of issues including the noise from people living in the condemned building, the growing mountain of refuse lying on the property and the fact that gunshots have been heard coming from the property.”

“The residents said their concerns were that the state of property is impacting negatively on their property values and made it difficult for neighbours to sell their properties. It also posed a security risk to those residents who properties were in close proximity,” said Pappas, adding that his major concern had to do with the structural integrity of the building.

Councillor Chris Pappas shows the pile of rubbish outside the front of the building which is an eyesore and health hazard.

Councillor Chris Pappas shows the pile of rubbish outside the front of the building which is an eyesore and health hazard.

Pappas said he had been advised that people living in the building were SAPS officers and railway security personnel, but had also heard allegations of prostitution and drug activities taking place in the block of flats. He confirmed that Mayville SAPS had previously carried out raids on the property. According to Pappas, the building falls under the jurisdiction of the national Public Works department and not the provincial department.

“Public Works would like the building back from SAPS as there are other departments that want to rent the building. I have been told that in 2008, R40 million was put aside for a tender to go out to revamp the building, but this has since lapsed and the money was returned to the budget,” he said.

Pappas said SAPS had a case against the residents in the block of flats and had attempted to evict them so that the building could be returned to Public Works, but that their attempts had been blocked. “I will be following up on what is blocking this,” he said.

Moving forward, the councillor said the next step would be to meet with the senior officer of the provincial SAPS and the SAPS legal team to hear their point of view.

“Public Works would have to fix the lifts and fire hydrants at the building, however they can’t carry out any work on the property because of the legal case the SAPS has against the tenants. SAPS is responsible for cleaning up and maintaining the property, but the building has been condemned so Public Works can’t plough resources into it,” he said.

Pappas said his long-term plan would be to sit down with the SAPS and discuss the way forward regarding the property, but in the short-term he would approach DSW and SAPS to discuss removing the rubbish on the property and has in the meantime arranged for a skip to be placed on the property.

“I have also approached the Parks Department about the park bordering the property and have asked if workers could spray the weeds and maintain the property as well as the park,” he said.


Lauren Walford

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