Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Heatless suite no problem for tenant

Man stays put while neighbours in hotel

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TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Nathan Johns has no plans to leave his apartment, even though the building has been without heat since Dec. 25.

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TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Nathan Johns has no plans to leave his apartment, even though the building has been without heat since Dec. 25.

Nathan Johns is camping out in his frozen living room until further notice.

Huddled between two space heaters on a yoga mat, the 27-year-old University of Manitoba architecture student is living in subarctic conditions.

Johns and dozens of apartment dwellers in the 100 block of Maryland Street woke up to freezing temperatures and flooded floors on Christmas morning.

The unwelcome gifts came courtesy of a broken boiler in the basement of their building, a boiler that won't be replaced until Jan. 15 at the earliest, D7 Property Management told tenants.

With wind chills bottoming out at -51 in recent days, everyone has fled the 32 apartment suites except for Johns and three other tenants. A handful of pets remain in the building as well.

Johns said the management team was open with tenants, telling them it could take four to six weeks before a new furnace is installed.

'I got an alpaca wool blanket for Christmas and it was perfect timing'

-- Nathan Johns

The custom boiler needs to be driven in from out of province and holiday closures have caused delays.

D7 is offering complimentary rooms at the Norwood Hotel for tenants to stay in as repairs are made, but Johns opted to stay put since he works predominantly from home.

"It's not so bad if you know how to keep warm," he said, donning a single hoodie and jeans.

"I got an alpaca wool blanket for Christmas and it was perfect timing. My power had just gone out, I had no heat and it was just on Christmas Day, so I was thankful for that blanket."

Johns barricaded the door to his apartment with furniture and clothing to keep cool air from entering the space.

By Wednesday, he had turned on his oven to provide more heat, a challenging process because of blown fuses and previous power outages in the building.

"There were some repercussions when the boiler went out. Essentially our services have changed from diesel to electricity, so then the system is overrun," said Johns.

"When the power went out, everyone started using more electricity. Then it got too cold so the fuses blew and the electricity went out. And then after the electricity went out, some people's apartments dropped down to zero degrees... and then pipes burst and started to flood one of the tenant's apartments."

The water flooded the basement, setting off an alarm and causing the fire department to come knocking, said Johns.

On-site repairman Romeo Miniotas has been working around the clock to fix the mess but declined when asked to comment on the chain of events.

"He's been on crazy call, he's been here every other day. He put stuff on my windows to try and keep the windows warm," Johns said.

Fellow tenant Shirley Appleyard also praised the efforts of the maintenance team.

"It's an old building so you'd expect problems, but this is the big one. They've been very good, the management, the maintenance man and the plumber," said Appleyard, whose daughter Sandy was less approving.

"My mother is a very nice person," said Sandy. "The thing that got me is not the ownership of the building, but that there's no emergency procedure put into place for situations like these -- it took four days before (the tenants) got hotel rooms."

Sandy Appleyard thought an emergency bus should have taken tenants away to a warm shelter immediately after the furnace broke.

"The number one concern should have been the tenants. The first thing they did was give everyone portable heaters and put plastic on their windows," said Sandy. "But they weren't concerned about providing heat, they were concerned about keeping the pipes from bursting."

D7 Property Management wasn't immediately available for comment.

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2014 A4

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