Bang! Bang! Bang! came the knock at my bedroom door, as if someone were about to blow it down. I lept out of bed, threw on some clothes and and sprinted to the door, rudely awakened from sound sleep on a Sunday morning. “Who is it?” I inquired curiously. Bang! Bang! Bang! “Maintenance!” I cracked the door to reveal a group of young men with tool belts on, all bundled up as if they were about to go conquer Everest.
Feeling there was no other option, I consented to let them in. “Why are you here?” I asked. One replied, “To fix your doors.” I chuckled to myself, mentally comparing the aggressive door-knock to the fairly insignificant task of “fixing doors.” They were in and out in about 15 minutes, after checking the bedroom and bathroom doors and installing a sweep on the front door. The goal was apparently to prevent drafts and improve the efficiency of the place I’m calling home this year: The Grove.
For the past few weeks, The Grove has been a busy place — bustling with Bangor Hydro trucks and more recently a swarm of service vehicles from Georgia. I don’t really see the logic of bringing a carpentry crew over a thousand miles north to Maine to work on buildings, but nothing around here surprises me anymore.
When the cold snap hit us, it became apparent that these buildings were not at all outfitted to efficiently keep the inside temperature at a reasonable level while the temperature outside was sub-zero. People cranked the heat, which drew a massive amount of power. Subsequently, the electrical infrastructure gave out, resulting in nearly a dozen both temporary and extended outages — mostly occurring during the coldest temperatures we’ve had this season. Blame was thrown back and forth between The Grove and Bangor Hydro.
The root cause of the outages should be attributed to The Grove for two reasons. Firstly, they were responsible to build proper housing for the climate, which they overwhelmingly did not. Secondly, the heat pumps that are installed here are not efficient at all, not even meeting minimum efficiency guidelines let alone Energy Star requirements; they are very cheap, and performance is nothing short of questionable when the temperature drops below freezing.
The Grove claims to have fixed the electrical issue and renters have been issued a $50 rent voucher. This is the first time they have publicly tried this damage control tactic. If you “Like” The Grove Orono on Facebook, you have access to reading the plethora of negative — and some hilarious — comments on every single post The Grove makes.
I can’t be entirely negative here: They are making at least an effort to button up these buildings as well as they can. They have used an infrared thermal imaging camera to inspect buildings and find out where the most heat is escaping and are working on sealing those voids. Also, The Grove capped the monthly utility overage to $20 per resident, which will end up saving each resident hundreds of dollars. With mold [apparently] still lingering and an army of angry residents slowly gaining traction, it will be interesting to see what the future brings to The Grove.
Dodge Tucker is a second-year finance and accounting student.