East Lyme — As chilling winds hit Niantic’s Crescent Beach this week, some residents of the Elms Inn on Ocean Avenue worried the building would close and they would be out in the cold.
They learned Wednesday that the feared situation would not come to pass.
“It looks like the crisis of no power in the cold weather has been averted,” said First Selectman Paul Formica.
On Tuesday, the residents received a letter from the Elms’ management telling them to seek housing elsewhere. The letter stated that the residential hotel was having financial difficulties and owed Connecticut Light & Power about $7,000.
CL&P was planning to shut off power to the property, said Frank Forrestt, whose brother-in-law owns the Elms. Forrestt said he has taken over management of the building under the name Shores Point Property Management.
But with help from the town and under new management this week, the property, with tenants in half of its 24 units, does not have to close as of now.
Town officials on Tuesday contacted CL&P and sought help from state Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, to prevent the power from being shut off, said Formica.
Forrestt, after a conference call with CL&P and the mortgage company, confirmed power would remain on. The owner, Jude Cleary, has been having health problems that, combined with a tough economy and flooding from Superstorm Sandy, has made it difficult to manage the property, Forrestt said.
Forrestt assumed responsibility after Cleary became very sick this week. Forrestt said he has helped manage the Elms in the past when Cleary has been ill.
The building, which had been in foreclosure proceedings, was listed for sale until the listing expired two months ago. Forrestt said it is no longer in foreclosure and he would work to find potential buyers.
Forrestt said he had an appointment with a Federal Emergency Management Agency representative this morning to look at the property, where storm debris remained piled in the front yard months after the storm.
“The town was ready to step up and do whatever they needed to do to keep doors open,” he said.
Formica said Wednesday that the town wanted to help “members of the public” stay in their homes during this cold snap.
Forrestt also credited the mortgage company, Colony Capital LLC, with paying the electricity bill. He said the company has been understanding of his brother-in-law’s illness and also wants to keep the building open and in good condition. Forrestt said CL&P did not have to comply with the request not to shut off power, but did.
On Wednesday afternoon, Forrestt passed out letters to residents that told them, “You will not be experiencing any service interruptions and we will be remaining open.”
Residents who received the first letter Tuesday had been anxious about being asked to leave immediately.
“This is my apartment,” resident Sean Houser, who has lived there for a month, said on Tuesday. “This is where I live.”
On Wednesday, Houser was in good spirits knowing that he could remain home, but he said he lost sleep the night before over the situation.
Another resident, who declined to give his name, stressed the importance of being able to come home, turn on the light, take a hot shower and have a warm bed after a day of work.
“I go to work every day, pay my bills,” said the resident. “All I ask for is to be treated decently.”
Forrestt said he had to warn residents about the “worst-case scenario” of no power, since he learned there was an order to shut off electricity to the property.
“Shutoffs are always a last resort — we never want to disconnect power to any customer,” said CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross Wednesday. “That’s why we always encourage customers with payment issues to contact us, as CL&P has programs and services that may be able to help.”