People work on the roof of the Stilly Valley Senior Center on Thursday, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

People work on the roof of the Stilly Valley Senior Center on Thursday, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Seniors evacuated from Stilly Valley Center housing due to roof damage

Residents said water damage issues began years ago. Mid-winter repairs forced them into hotels.

ARLINGTON — Seniors living on two floors at the Stilly Valley Center are being evacuated for at least a month due to water damage from a leaky roof, and the entire three-story building could potentially be evacuated.

The process of relocating residents — in the cold, wet and rainy season — comes as the City of Arlington issued a $500 fine for an unpermitted roofing project, according to a city official. Formerly known as the Stillaguamish Senior Center, the complex is home to four apartment buildings, including the HUD-funded Stillaguamish Gardens apartment building. Management evacuated the top floor earlier this week and planned to begin evacuating the second floor starting Friday. There are 31 units in the building.

On Wednesday, plastic wrap lined the carpets of the Gardens apartment building and large dehumidifiers buzzed incessantly, slowly dripping water into plastic tubs. Crews from Pure Dry Restoration wove in and out of units, using infrared cameras to detect moisture in the walls.

Evacuated seniors have been moved to various hotels in the area until repairs are completed. The Stilly Valley Center is footing the hotel bills, as well as a food stipend — seeing as they no longer have access to kitchens.

The roof had been leaky for about a year, said the Stilly Valley Center’s executive director, Danette Klemens. Late this summer, a structural analysis of the building revealed a total roof replacement was necessary, she explained. Klemens requested funding in October, and HUD approved the request about a week-and-a-half later.

“They were doing it in sections because it’s unusual — it’s a flat roof,” Klemens said. “It’s not the best time of year to be doing it, but we had to move forward to avoid future leaks.”

During the first week of November, Topmost Roofing began replacing the roof. On Nov. 22, it came to management’s attention there was water damage in the units on the top floor. Exactly how the damage occurred is still under investigation, according to both Klemens and Topmost Roofing, but residents suspect improper encapsulation during rainy weather.

In an effort to escape the whirring fans in his room, second-floor resident Jeffrey Walsh, 68, was sitting on the couch in the social area Wednesday. Walsh is a jack-of-all-trades, he said, but he spent the majority of his career as a civil engineer before moving to the Gardens building, which currently has a three-year wait list. Walsh is frustrated, but he has been afraid to speak out for fear of eviction.

“It’s obvious to anybody that the roof should have been replaced years ago,” Walsh said. “It has been leaking ever since I moved in 48 months ago.”

Walsh said that paint curled off the walls due to moisture in one of units back in summer 2020. More tenants gathered in the social space to share their tales of neglect over the past years. Walsh was the only resident willing to go on the record.

Speaking of the center’s director, Walsh said: “Her biggest answer to all our concerns is, ‘Can you prove it?’”

Klemens responded to eviction concerns saying she “would never do that.”

“There’s a very set protocol on what is grounds for eviction, and talking to the newspaper is not one of them,” Klemens said.

The roof was originally installed in 2006, the executive director said.

“It could be at least a month because they want to do a very thorough restoration,” Klemens said. “We want to make sure everything is completely dry, fully mitigated, treated. They have a very well organized plan with Pure Dry.”

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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