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Complex not safe for all to return to apartments

Residents slowly began returning to their homes in the Scottish Towers II Apartments on Wednesday, three days after Hurricane Jeanne ripped off parts of the complex roof.

Dunedin Fire Rescue had condemned the 55-and-over complex on Sunday, ordering a mandatory evacuation.

Engineers assessed each unit and determined that 140 of the 188 units were safe for residents late Tuesday. The manager of the complex notified residents Wednesday morning.

"We would rather have all 188 apartments opened up," said Janet Anderson, property manager for the Goodman Group, the owner of the complex. "We know that's not a possibility. We certainly wouldn't want anyone in any danger."

Anderson said she was not sure when the other units would be ready. They suffered massive water damage. She said a contractor was planning to begin work today to make the building watertight. A restoration company was also going to start repairing the water-damaged units this week.

"Considering how much these contractors are in demand, we feel very fortunate to have someone under contract and ready to move on this property right away," she said. "It's really difficult to give a time frame because we're dealing with construction issues."

In the meantime, residents who are unable to move back have been relocated to furnished apartments in Largo. They were also given a reduced rate on their rent to match the amount they pay at Scottish Towers II Apartments.

Resident Ann Hilsinger was planning to stay with her daughter in Washington, D.C. She came back on Wednesday to empty her refrigerator.

"This is very nerve wracking, very stressful," said Hilsinger, 93. "I have lived here 27 years. This is the first time this has happened."

Dunedin Fire Rescue evacuated the residence at 5:30 p.m. Sunday after part of the roof was ripped away from two buildings. Some of the residents were taken to the First United Methodist Church in Tarpon Springs, while others stayed with family or friends.

Geneva Kirn and Laura Gale were thrilled when they got the call that it was safe to come back.

Both had stayed at the church Sunday night and then with friends Monday and Tuesday. They said there was no visible damage to their units.

"It's wonderful to have friends who take you in, but it's not your own bed," said Kirn, 93. "We were lucky. We only had to stay at the church one night."

"At our age, I don't think we could take too many nights like that," added Gale, 86.

Megan Scott can be reached at 445-4167 or