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Supply chain issues could leave hundreds of Portland apartment tenants without power for two weeks

The skyline of Portland, Maine, catches the early morning sunlight, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
Robert F. Bukaty
The skyline of Portland, Maine, catches the early morning sunlight, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

Losing power in a high rise when daytime temperatures are in the 80s makes for uncomfortable conditions. Bonnie Smith got some respite from the steamy heat in her unit on the 11th floor of Franklin Towers, which serves older adults and people with disabilities, by stepping outside Tuesday morning.

"Before I came out here, the sweat was pouring right off me," Smith said.

Smith is among the more than 130 tenants at Franklin Towers who have been without power since severe thunderstorms on Friday. An electrical system malfunctioned, causing all units from the 7th through the 16th floor to lose electricity. And because the parts needed to fix the issue are in short supply, it could be another two weeks before power is restored.

"It's not that we won't spend the money to do it, it's just the availability and logistics of getting it," said Cheryl Sessions, the executive director of the Portland Housing Authority.

"We've had direct conversations with suppliers and manufacturers and it just doesn't seem possible to get the parts necessary," Sessions said. "We're making every effort, but it may take 7 to 14 days, according to the electricians."

In the meantime, all the major systems in Franklin Towers, including water, plumbing, alarms, and elevators have power. So do all hallways, even on the floors where units lost electricity. The Portland Housing Authority distributed extension cords so tenants can plug their refrigerators into hallway outlets. They've also set up cooling centers on the first floor. And staff are serving three meals a day for those who want them. But some, like Smith, are concerned about residents with medical needs and they want the Housing Authority to do more.

"See if you can find a hotel that will put us up until we get the power on," Smith said.

Sessions said they'll try to find hotel rooms for tenants with medical issues, but they can't do it for everybody.

"It's close to Labor Day in Portland Maine," she said. "Finding two rooms would be quite something, but finding 126 is not gonna happen."

Despite the frustrations of some tenants, others, like John Bourque said they're satisfied with the Authority's response.

"They're trying," he said. "They're doing the best they can with the situation. The building's old."

Sessions says both the city of Portland and the fire department have inspected Franklin Towers to make sure all concerns are being addressed during the power outage. And if community members want to provide support, the Housing Authority welcomes volunteers who can help serve meals.