Elderly public housing residents tell CHA to feel cold apartments for themselves

Elderly public housing residents tell CHA to feel cold apartments for themselves

February 13th, 2014 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Gateway Towers resident Janice Stanley, 60, speaks to those gathered to address the heating concerns in the elderly high rise buildings in a meeting at Boynton Terrace Apartments.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

Residents in the city's four public housing sites for the elderly aired grievances over new temperature restrictions in their apartments, but housing officials promised to work to make sure they're comfortable.

If residents are cold because their thermostats aren't working properly they should notify maintenance immediately. Whoever responds to the work order will stay until he gets the temperature up to 75 degrees, said Chattanooga Housing Authority Executive Director Betsy McCright.

She was one of several CHA officials who attended a Boynton resident council meeting this week to listen to residents' concerns about the thermostat controls the housing authority installed to save $100,000 a year. CHA officials have said the savings will be used for repairs and equipment replacements.

The thermostats are set so rooms will be no warmer than 75 degrees in the winter and no cooler than 70 degrees in the summer. By spring the contractor, Honeywell, is supposed to have placed the thermostats in nine of the housing authority's 16 public housing sites.

But residents such as Joe Clark, vice president of the Boynton Terrace Apartments residents council, said CHA should have focused on insulating the apartments first.

The apartments that reach 75 degrees can't hold the temperature long because of the air coming in from around the windows and under the door, said Clark. He said some heating units are cycling off and on every 10 to 20 minutes because temperatures fall so fast.

Other residents said their apartments never get as warm as 75 degrees when it's really cold outside. On the coldest nights it feels more like 50 in some units, said Boynton Terrace council President Bennie Haynes. He said he put a thermometer in the hallway one night and it read between 40 and 50 degrees.

Karl Kendrick said his cold Gateway Towers apartment is making him sick.

"I just went to the doctor Thursday. I was classified with pneumonia," the 67-year-old said.

Step outside, said 60-year-old Janice Stanley, and that's the way it feels in her apartment. The thermostat may say 75 on the wall but it is not 75 in the rooms, Stanley said as the audience applauded.

One woman admitted using her oven to warm her apartment. Another, 75-year-old Bertha Suttles, challenged CHA officials to spend the night in the building for a week to get a firsthand experience of the cold rooms.

Edna Varner was the only CHA board member to attend the meeting. She assured residents that nobody wanted them to be cold or to suffer.

She said she wears jackets, sweaters and extra socks in her home because she had to turn down the thermostat when her bill hit $900.

She encouraged residents to turn in work orders when their rooms were too cold so there would be a record of their complaints and maintenance staffers could fix them.

Mike Sabin, CHA's director of low income housing, said residents with medical concerns like Kendrick's or with any other disability can be accommodated if they make it known that they need help.

Varner said she and other housing officials would attend the next meeting scheduled resident meeting on March 10 at 4 p.m. to hear an update. Clark said Boynton residents council board members will meet at 4 p.m. March 3 to set the agenda.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6431.