No air conditioning in sweltering heat making these seniors lose their cool

  • Donna Davey stands outside her apartment complex at Horseshoe Pond Place. Ray Duckler / Monitor staff

  • The outside of the apartment complex at Horseshoe Pond Place. Ray Duckler—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/20/2022 4:15:17 PM

The heat was still on this week at Horseshoe Pond Place, a senior living facility in Concord.

The air conditioning, however, was not.

At least it wasn’t on Thursday, five days since Concord baked in 90-degree temperatures last weekend, and just two days before this weekend, expected to bring record-breaking mid-90-degree heat on both days.

Thursday night however was anything but a heatwave as temperatures dipped into the 40s.

The problem is the antiquated heating and cooling system at the home, which does not allow tenants or the landlord to switch over at a moment’s notice if the weather refuses to cooperate with seasonal norms.

The heat goes on in September – when it’s often warm out but nights are cool – and stays on until mid-May, when the air conditioning takes over for the next four months, even when some nights are chilly.

State law and the city of Concord’s housing code require apartments to have heat available from September 15 to May 15. Given the time it takes the system at Horseshoe Pond Place to cycle from heating to cooling, the air conditioning won’t begin operating until next Thursday, at the earliest. And that means this weekend will feel an awful lot like last weekend.

Only hotter.

“My blood pressure went up and I had a cluster headache all week because of the heat,” said Donna Davey, who’s lived at the senior home in the old Page Belting building for five years.

“This weekend is supposed to be just as bad. I put a contact message out to the governor’s office but have not heard back, so I sent a letter to the Monitor,” she said.

In her letter, Davey documented her frustration about something very uncool.

“Friday afternoon,” she wrote, “my apartment was 94 degrees. At 7 a.m. on Saturday, it was 84 inside and then climbed to 95 by the afternoon. Tenants weren’t able to sleep, I didn’t want to eat, and I couldn’t get anything done because of the excessive heat.”

That’s why her apartment was cluttered this week. She’s moved her summer clothes into her closet but has yet to move all her winter stuff from her living room into storage.

It was simply too hot last weekend to finish the job.

“We call them every day,” Davey said, referring to Stewart Property Management, the building’s owner and landlord. “A lot of people have called and complained. They say it’s out of their hands.”

Some of Davey’s neighbors, who didn’t want to give their names, said the heat had posed no problem for them. One woman mumbled under her breath that it was “elderly abuse.”

“They fear there will be repercussions,” Davey said.

Ryan Stewart, vice president of Stewart Property Management, said his company wants its elderly tenants to be as comfortable as possible but it can’t control the weather.

“We’ve had this system for 20 years,” Stewart said. “It’s a system that only heats or cools, but it won’t do one or the other at the flick of a switch, and it takes several days to get ready to work. We do this at the same time every year. Unfortunately, there have been unexpectedly high temperatures this time, and that’s what has put us in this predicament.”

Stewart said he’s sending two window-fitting air conditioning units to the dining room, providing tenants with an escape from the heat, before the central AC begins working.

“If there was any possibility to speed this up this weekend, we would do it,” Stewart said. “We do not want to make anyone uncomfortable. That’s the last thing we want for them.”

Stewart said there were no plans to update the ventilation system at Horseshoe Pond Place any time soon.

The latest forecast for the weekend predicts temperatures in the 95-degree range both Saturday and Sunday. Davey said she’s complained in the past about the springtime heat waves, but she’s never taken it this far.

Davey said that after five years of living in the building, this annual small window of oppressive heat – before the air conditioning has cooled things off – has gone on long enough.

“I’m doing this because of the way I feel this time,” Davey said. “That’s how pissed off I am.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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