UPDATE: Residents return to Patten Towers four weeks after fire

UPDATE: Residents return to Patten Towers four weeks after fire

June 28th, 2013 by Louie Brogdon in Local - Breaking News

Residents of Patten Towers return home.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

City building official Dallas Rucker speaks to media about inspections performed at Patten Towers.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

UPDATE at 12:30 p.m.: The first dozen Patten Tower residents have returned home.

Contradicting earlier reports that Patten Towers had failed its inspection, Chattanooga officials emerged from the shuttered building at noon and declared it safe for habitation.

Officials for PK Management - the company that oversees the Section 8 project on behalf of California real estate magnate Gary Perlman - had earlier turned gathered residents away and sent busses back to hotels, telling them that Patten Towers had failed its inspection.

That information, however, was false, said Dallas Rucker, a building official for the city of Chattanooga.

Though he couldn't comment on what residents were told earlier, Rucker said the building has now passed inspection and that residents will be allowed in today. The inspection finished at 11:45, Rucker said.

Officials for PK Management did not respond to requests for comment. Security guards for Security Engineers, Inc., who had earlier interfered with reporters' efforts to speak with residents on a public sidewalk, were in violation of their own policy, a company spokeswoman said.

Residents were told on Thursday and Friday morning to pack up their things and wait for the bus that would take them back to their homes, which they have been forbidden to enter since a fire destroyed the basement of Patten Towers on May 28 - four weeks ago.

Since that fire, residents have lived in emergency shelters and extended stay motels, while others have found shelter with friends and family members. The Chattanooga Housing Authority has also made space for about a dozen residents.

PK Management has denied reporters permission to view the interior of Patten Towers, which until today's inspection were home to a number of health and safety issues ranging from rat feces in the ventilation system to inadequate fire measures.

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.