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Bisbee apartment building faces closure, tenants forced out a week before Christmas

Posted at 4:40 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 21:17:46-05

BISBEE, Ariz. — Tenants of a low income housing unit in Bisbee are now looking for a place to live a week before Christmas.

The city shut off utilities to the building Tuesday. The Bisbee mayor says they had no choice -- the Hillcrest apartment owners had not paid any of their sewer bills, over $70,000.

There is a sign in front of the building saying it is uninhabitable now that all the utilities are off, but people were still at the building Wednesday trying to pack up they’re things.

Emma Jean Maguire has lived in the building for about a year.

"Aw man. I have the most beautiful Christmas tree you ever seen in your life," she says.

Maguire says she used the low-income housing unit to get back on her feet. After about a year, she’s now going back to the homeless shelter.

"I’m trying my best to not let this be a big setback, because it really is hard," she said. "I have a cat and Tin Town is taking me in, and they are going to try to work out arrangements for Maxie."

Bisbee Mayor David Smith says the heartache is exactly what the apartment owners planned -- using it as a threat after not paying over $70,000 in utility bills.

"You’re not going to throw these people out on the street, this isn’t going to look good for you," Smith said.

The city offered the landlords a deal to keep Hillcrest open 18 months ago.

"We offered them to pay 50 percent of the bill and we would even deduct all of the interest, and they refused," Mayor Smith said.

Utilities are now shut off and the tenants need to find somewhere else to live. The mayor says he’s worked with the homeless shelter to make sure they have room for those in need.

"I feel very angry the city of Bisbee was put into this situation by landlords that I consider to be less than honest," Mayor Smith said.

Maguire says she’s trying to stay in the Christmas spirit.

"At least we’ll all be together at Christmas, and we’ll all be in the same boat," she said.

KGUN 9 reached out to the owners of this property one of them called us back saying that they tried to negotiate with the city and even cut a check for $25,000. The mayor says that $25,000 was a good start, but with no guarantee of paying the other funds, it was too little too late.