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Arnold high-rise residents tired of waiting on elevator repairs

| Monday, July 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Nobody likes to wait for an elevator, especially for two or three months.

Residents at Arnold Towers are getting more than restless over an elevator that hasn't been in operation for several months at the eight-floor senior high-rise on Horne Boulevard in Arnold.

A second elevator at the build is operational.

“Are they going to wait until somebody dies trying to get up there?” asked Sheila Wynkoop, 67, who lives on the second floor and is vice president of the high-rise association, Tenants of Arnold Towers.

Another resident Deborah Kapalka, 55, said that she broke her hip after falling in one of the elevators in mid-April. She said she was exiting the elevator, holding a laundry basket, and fell because the level of the elevator was lower than the hallway floor.

Her attorney, Tim Conboy of Caroselli Beachler McTiernan & Conboy in Pittsburgh, said he has notified the Westmoreland County Housing Authority of Kapalka's intent to sue for her injuries.

Michael Washowich, executive director of the authority, verified that a resident has notified the county about the alleged injury and said he could not discuss the details of the situation.

Kapalka, Wynkoop and several other residents contend that the authority has been dragging its feet and accuse it of shoddy maintenance on the more-than 30-year-old high-rise with 125 residents. They also claim there are service problems with the one elevator they can use.

“We sympathize with the tenants for being inconvenienced as they deal with what we call an ‘anomaly situation,' ” Washowich said. “We are doing everything we can to get this resolved as soon as possible.”

Although one of the elevators has been taken off-line for residents' use, it is still operable if it is needed, according to Mark Berkey, service manager at Eastern Elevator Service & Sales Co. in Windber.

The housing authority contracts with Eastern Elevator for maintenance on elevators in all of its high-rises.

The elevator that residents can't use still works but is noisy, and the housing authority, along with the company, didn't want to further upset or concern residents with the noise, Berkey said.

“We are not dragging our feet on this,” Westmoreland County Commissioner Charles Anderson said. “If we could get it fixed quicker, we would do it. I told the company to do anything to alleviate stress. We're doing everything we can. We take this very seriously.”

It's a freak of a situation, according to Washowich and Berkey.

As the company checked the elevator for issues in April and May, workers changed out parts but eventually found they had to replace the entire “elevator machine,” which moves and stops the elevator, according to Berkey.

“This type of component usually doesn't fail like this,” Berkey said. “It's nobody's fault. It's a mechanical piece of equipment.”

The elevator part manufacturer is scheduled to deliver the equipment on Aug. 16, according to Berkey. He could not say for sure when the job would be completed.

“This is a major repair,” he said. “We've got to get a crane in there to get equipment through the roof. Short of a total renovation, this is the most major repair on an elevator. We will do the very best we can.”

Eastern Elevator representatives were at Arnold Tower last week to replace a roller guide, which was not a safety issue, according to Berkey.

“We will continue to do preventative maintenance on both cars to keep the other ready in case it is needed,” he said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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