Elderly and disabled residents of Cathedral Square Towers worried about elevator project

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Elderly and disabled residents of the 12-story Cathedral Square Towers apartment building said they’re worried a project to replace the building’s aging elevators could instead leave them trapped in their homes indefinitely when the building’s lone working elevator shuts down.

It’s a problem that has been recurring in the building with increasing frequency, one resident told 41 Action News on Monday.

“The other day it was down for over six hours,” said resident Michael Eckert, who uses a motorized wheelchair. “So we're either stranded downstairs or we're stranded upstairs.”

He said he worries that in a fire or other emergency he and other residents at the building, which serves low-income seniors and the disabled who receive housing assistance from HUD, could become stranded.

“Last Monday, I had my power chair upstairs and I went to go to school in the morning and the elevator wasn't working. I called the Fire Department, and they got me down the stairs,” Eckert said. “Jan, our manager, put up a letter if we need to get out and the elevators aren't working, call the fire department.”

Robert Schock, a senior vice president of Yarco, the company which manages the building, said the elevators needed to be replaced, necessitating shutting down first one, then the other, for a few months at a time for a complete retrofitting. The newly re-opened first elevator has had some kinks to work out; inconveniencing some residents, but no one was ever without elevator use for more than a few hours.

City inspectors are expected at the building on Friday, when they will look at the second elevator and could declare it ready for operation at that time.

The new elevators are part of a $1.2 million overhaul of the building, including the heating and cooling systems, addition of new smoke detectors and other improvements.

Other residents interviewed by 41 Action News, either on camera or after requesting they not be photographed, said the elevator issue was one of several problems they’ve had with Yarco in recent months.

Lizzie Brown, another elderly resident, said she had complaints about insect infestations that took weeks to get resolved.

“Bugs is first. That's bed bugs as well as cockroaches that get into bed with you. My neighbor has had the treatment on her apartment three times, I've had it once,” Brown said. ”It’s just a nasty building, that's what it is. It needs repairs, it really do.”

Schock said there had been no bed bug issues in the building for some time, and that the building conducts hygiene checks and helps residents with any insect issues. Brown’s apartment will be fumigated next week by the building’s contracted exterminator.

Schock said he was concerned by residents’ perception that the management company, which oversees several other HUD-affiliated properties serving similar clienteles, was not responsive to their complaints, even encouraging them to call him directly if they felt their concerns were being neglected. 

“We are very, very focused on making sure the best practices are in place, and if something's not working right for somebody I want to hear about it. We want to be responsive to it,” Schock said. “I want to get it fixed. I want people to love living in our apartment communities.” 

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