Out-of-service lift a downer for New London condo residents

New London — The city is providing extra manpower on emergency calls to a Farmington Avenue condominium complex where residents are dealing with an out-of-service elevator.

Residents say the elevator at the four-story Farmington Arms at 70 Farmington Avenue has been out of service for about a month. It could take months longer before there is a fix. The outage has raised the ire of some of the elderly and disabled residents and prompted a safety inspection by the city.

Resident Louis Tuttle, who uses a wheelchair and a walker because of his bad knee, said it takes him 15 minutes to drag himself down four stories from his top floor condo. He said there are others worse off, including some elderly folks who haul around oxygen bottles.

“The notice says (the elevator) will be out for three months. They’re not doing enough to fix the situation,” Tuttle said.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” Fire Marshal Vernon Skau said the fire department has assigned an extra crew to all medical responses to the apartment complex. A normal medical call brings an ambulance and two firefighters. With the elevator out, Skau said the department will respond with an ambulance and an engine, which carries three additional firefighters.

Skau said the extra help would be needed in instances where someone needs to be carried down several flights of stairs.

The complex is owned by the Farmington Arms Condo Association, which enlists Northeast Property Group for maintenance.

The ultimate decision on whether to repair or replace the elevator rests with the condo association's board of directors. Condo association board member Mathew Greene said the association does have a reserve fund with enough money to cover elevator repairs.

Instead, Greene said the problem is the length of time that the elevator companies are quoting for repairs or replacement of the elevator.

It could take 12 weeks for a part to be manufactured and installed, Greene said, and six months or more for a new elevator. Greene said the board continues to look at all available options and estimates, including companies other than Otis, but said there are very few companies that repair and/or replace elevators.

"We're being held hostage by the elevator companies," Greene said. "At the last board meeting we voiced our strong disbelief and anger toward the owner’s rep. It’s absolutely absurd."

Greene said the cost of a new elevator is in the $200,000 range. He said board members are as frustrated as residents and are seeking the most expeditious way to get an elevator up and running.  

Fire Marshal Skau said the fire department first learned of the out-of-service elevator Dec. 8, 2018. It was reported to be back in service two days later but reported to be out of service again on Dec. 31, 2018. Firefighters responded to free a person from a stalled elevator on Dec. 17, 2018.

In partnership with the building department, Skau said a fire inspector conducted a safety code inspection to ensure exits, hallways and stairways were up to code. No major violations were detected. An elevator is not required by code, Skau said.

In fact, Skau said, in the event of a fire or other emergency the elevator is typically shut down.

Records at the department show just the one reported elevator problem in 2018. Firefighters were called out on six different occasions in 2017 to free stuck elevator passengers, fire department records show.

Tuttle said some of the residents are considering further action, including requesting that some residents on the top floors be moved to hotels. That request has not yet been taken to the condo association, he said.

g.smith@theday.com 

Editor's note: This version clarifies that the out-of-service elevator is not a code violation.

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