Elevator woes have residents fuming
The only elevator in a building of a 55-and-older Clearwater community could take weeks or even months to repair.
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
Published July 13, 2006
CLEARWATER — Four flights of stairs stand between Yvonne Gubner and freedom.
Downstairs, her condo neighbors are coming and going, but Gubner is 81 and uses a wheelchair.
Two weeks ago, the lone elevator in her building broke.
“I think about how lonely it is to look at the tops of the trees, and how I wish I could get out and see the bottoms of the trees,” Gubner said this week.
She and other disabled residents have been stranded on the upper levels of the Imperial Pines Condominium since June 28. In this 55-and-older community, that was the last day they made trips to the supermarket, the wellness center, the doctor’s office.
The problem, an underground hydraulic cylinder that has leaked gallons of fluid, could take weeks, even months to fix.
Mowrey Elevator Co. has been backlogged with at least four other projects, a company representative told residents this week. And only when the long cylinder is hoisted out of the ground can the company really assess the damage.
City officials know about the broken elevator in Building C. Fire Marshal Steve Strong and building department inspectors visited Imperial Pines the day the problem was reported.
Some residents worry that a fire is going to leave them helpless; the city disagrees. In the event of a fire, the 64 or so residents who live in the 48-unit building would need to exit through one of three stairwells. Never the elevator.
“As far as the fire marshal is concerned, it’s not a concern,” said city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli. “It’s an elevator of convenience.”
“All I know is I can’t get out,” Gubner said. She sat in an electric recliner in her living room, fiddling with a remote control, moving the chair up and down, up and down.
“Elevator broke,” 72-year-old Carolyn Schwartz wrote in her daily planner June 28, the last time she left the building’s fourth floor. She has heart and knee problems, and is supposed to be monitored by a cardiologist. Since she can’t make doctor’s appointments, a visiting nurse has had to check her pulse and blood pressure.
“They’re taking their good ol’ fat time with this,” Schwartz said. “They don’t think it’s terrible that we can be stuck with this not-working elevator for two months. They don’t live here.”
Her neighbor, Gubner, had double knee replacement surgery several years ago. She falls over easily. Still, she usually keeps busy with season tickets to the theater, twice-weekly trips to the wellness center, stops at the supermarket to pick out meats, and lunch dates with friends.
But not since the elevator broke. Friends have tried to visit Gubner, but they are also in their 80s, and the four-story hike affects them, too.
About three dozen residents attended a meeting of the condo association this week, and the broken elevator was Topic A.
No one knows why Building C was built with just one elevator, said Edward Dudley, president of the association’s board of directors. The other condo buildings have two working elevators.
“Who is responsible is beside the point,” he said, adding that the board has tried to better the situation, mainly by arranging with Publix to have groceries delivered.
Last year when the elevator showed signs of being unreliable, Progressive Management was making plans to fix it this summer, said P.J. Curran, Imperial Pines’ community manager. Last month, before the breakdown, those in the building were advised to stock up on food and medication.
As the meeting ended, and no definite timeline was given, Wanda Naas readied herself to climb four flights of stairs. “You gotta do what you gotta do,” she said. “I don’t have family down here.”
Naas, 73, has one lung. She lost the other to cancer surgery last year.
Instinctively, she walked toward the Building C elevator, but saw the notice sign and headed to the stairwell.
She took 16 steps to reach the first level. She stopped, pulled an inhaler from her red leather purse and puffed twice.
After a pause, she began her climb to the second floor.
Fourteen long steps. Naas clutched a water bottle. There was a chair in the corner of the stairwell, and Naas sank into it, one shoulder drooping. She drank the water. She wheezed heavily.
She had 28 more steps to go.