Aug 12, 2023

After 3 weeks with no AC, Lakewood residents demand answers

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LAKEWOOD, Ohio — No air conditioning for three weeks — that's been the reality for tenants at Center North Luxury Apartments on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood.

Temperatures in the high-rise building have been anywhere from 80 to 90 degrees, and the worst part is: They can't open windows because they're sealed shut.

Last week, we spoke with Premiere Property Management about the issue. They told us fixing the problem was their "main priority."

But after several weeks with no results, residents who live there say it's taking way too long.

"I think what the breakdown is, is the communication That is (why) everyone here is frustrated. Exactly when are they going to find this temporary chiller? When is it going to be installed? And then the big question is, when is the final solution, the motherboard for the chiller, when is that going to be installed? Again, we're still in the throes of summer," Prusak said.

The temporary chiller was supposed to be a buffer while residents waited for a permanent fix. But the hold up, according to premiere property management, is a chiller part called a motherboard, which is in a factory in Canada.

In an email to residents, obtained by 3News, Premiere said the motherboard was still being "programmed." But HVAC expert Bob Ambrose, with Gardiner Service Company, tells us there's no reason for it to be taking this long.

"That's hard for me to wrap my arms around, to be honest with you. Once these parts are available, and they could be in reinstalled, we can program them locally, we can reemploy (them), even if we can't do it locally, we're talking a matter of hours, or call it a days, versus weeks to pull this off," Ambrose said. "Most of the time, the programming, the database, has been duplicated. So it's basically re-uploaded into the equipment versus you're not starting from scratch and reprogramming the language, you know, which yes, could take weeks."

We asked Premiere Property Management about the delay with the programming, and below is how they responded via email:

"The motherboard absolutely cannot be programmed on site. The engineers for our chiller are located in Canada. We offered to fly their engineers down to Cleveland to program, and they indicated it had to be done at the factory. The only way to have the board programmed is in the factory in Canada. We have been told it could be ready by Monday."

Regarding the temporary cooler on a high-rise building, Ambrose says it can be done,

"We basically run the hose or, the chill water piping, up the side of the building and plug it into the equipment room. Now, this is a penthouse equipment room or a mid-level equipment room. There's ways to get piped effectively and safely down the side of a building. Like I said, it's pretty extensive, pretty involved, but it can, it can happen. If they can build a building, we can run show water up the side," he said.

However, Premiere said in an email to 3News that it's more complicated.

"Temporary cooling- the first thing we had to do was identify a 200+ ton chiller that was available to rent. They are not readily available. We have located one that could be on site as soon as Monday. Second, the chiller sits on the roof which is 15 stories high. You then have to find a crane that is large enough to lift the chiller onto the roof. At that point, it needs to be hooked into the existing system. The economics have played no role in this. It is about availability, and the process the factory has. We have offered to pay to have things expedited. We have offered to fly their engineers here, we have secured a private plane to retrieve the board when its ready. We have proven we will do whatever needs to be done to get done as quickly as possible."

Prusak says management has sent smoothie trucks and fans to residents, but have not been consistent when it comes to providing updates and answers as to when this will be resolved. For instance, an email to residents on August 1 said "the only update we are able to get from Canada today is that they that they have the board, and are working on getting it programmed."

But when 3News reached out for a statement today, Premiere said both the temporary chiller and motherboard could be ready by Monday.

While rent has been comped for two weeks, residents we spoke to say they should have been offered hotel rooms, with some even resorting to sleeping on their balconies. 3News asked Premiere about whether or not hotel rooms were offered to residents, but did not receive a response. Below is what they said about rent relief;'

"We have provided rent relief to the tenants. Once the unit is up and running, we will be providing additional rent relief. We have two of the top HVAC firms in Cleveland working daily on this. We are on the phone with them as well as the supplier checking on progress and offering alternatives daily, and in some cases well into the evening. We are doing absolutely everything there is to do to get the unit up and running."

Premiere also told us that they haven't heard much negative feedback from the more than 200 residents that live at Center North. Via email, writing:

"It's unfortunate that there are only a handful of residents who don’t understand that we are doing everything we can, and that machines, no matter how new they are, can break down. The vast majority of the tenants see our efforts, understand that the timing is out of our control, and have been great to work with."

3News has since learned that at least 35 residents have expressed displeasure with the AC situation at Center North.

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3News Investigates: As Lakewood apartment building continues without A/C, records show past financial trouble for managing companyResidents of Lakewood high-rise apartment complex demand answers after 2 weeks without air conditioning