Residents of the Clifford Lund Apartments expressed their frustration with an extended elevator outage in the building Monday, Oct. 18, before the Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities.
The elevator upgrade was planned in advance and information on the work had been communicated to residents of the 91-unit apartment building over a year in advance, according to Rodney Tapp, president of Meridian Group Inc., which manages the property. He said residents were advised every month to make their needs and concerns known to the manager so they could be addressed.
“The upgrades had to take place. Like I said, they were planned. So, you know, we hired dog walkers, people to help with grocery deliveries, laundry services, communicating with the local municipality as far as the fire department did welfare checks, and so as much as we could plan for the upgrade, we did. It's just, you know, there was a smaller percentage of the building that got frustrated because it’s taken longer than three weeks,” Tapp said.
The building is owned by the Wisconsin Housing Preservation Corporation and managed by the Middleton-based Meridian Group. Tapp said upgrades have been underway at the property for the past three years.
“It wasn’t a situation where there was an emergency, and we had to respond to it. It’s just never a good time to disrupt an elevator.”
The elevator was shut down Sept. 7 for what was expected to be a three-week upgrade.
“As they were going through the upgrades, there was a few other things that needed to take place,” Tapp said, and so it was extended about a week.
He said the current timeline would put the elevator back in operation by Nov. 1.
Residents contacted by the Telegram said they were not offered any additional help during the elevator shutdown, and they were not aware of any residents who received help. They expressed concern for neighbors who are elderly or use wheelchairs, and how the extended elevator shutdown is affecting them. For Lori Rabbitt, who lives on the second floor, trying to carry groceries and her 30-pound granddaughter up the stairs is a challenge.
“And I’m a lot younger than a lot of these residents here in the building,” Rabbitt said. “I’m concerned about the people that are up on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth floor.”
She said they were notified about the repairs and were prepared for a three-week shutdown, but the extension has added stress. Better communication would have helped the process, Rabbitt said. The longer the elevator is shut down, the more concern she has.
“I’d like to see the elderly in this building get the help they need,” Rabbitt said. “There’s a lot of elderly and disabled people in this building who can’t get out of their apartments. They’re stuck.”
She did give a shout-out to VIP Pizza, which has been the only food delivery service willing to carry her orders up to the second floor.
Elevator repairs and oversight are done at a state level. Based on information presented to the commission, there’s no avenue for the city to pursue, according to Nick Raverty, Mayor Jim Paine’s chief of staff.
“One of the commissioners brought this issue to the commission to see if there was any aid we could offer from an accessibility perspective, which turned more into facilitating the conversation between residents and the property manager,” he said.
Residents who attended were also provided with information on available resources.
“There’s not much we can do as board members. That’s not in our guidelines, but at least we’re a resource,” said committee member Reggie Leckel.
Lawrence LaTour, who lives on the first floor of the building, said the elevator shutdown hasn’t affected him, but he has made it a point to help his neighbors during the shutdown.
He said he couldn’t think of anything that could have been done better on the front end of the project. Now, it’s a waiting game.
“There’s really nothing that can make it better until they get it up and running,” LaTour said. “You’ve just got to deal with it, you know, day by day.”
This story was updated at 8:20 a.m. Oct. 22, with additional feedback from residents about services the management company said were being provided. It was originally posted at 4 p.m. Oct. 21.