Opinion: One Member’s Insight on Crawl Space Improvements

This year, after GHI Members voted to approve asbestos remediation in frame homes, contractors began that work alongside the crawl space improvements already scheduled through the Homes Improvement Program (HIP). These two projects are different and are being carried out by two separate contracting companies. While the asbestos remediation is ahead of schedule, the crawl space improvements have fallen months behind schedule. As a result, many courts will have their insulation removed because of the asbestos remediation, but the insulation WILL NOT BE REPLACED UNTIL SPRING 2019. GHI Members without crawl space insulation will endure winter with colder homes and/or higher electricity bills.

 

Crawl space work began in my court on October 24, 2018. We were not given prior notice of the impending work nor what it would entail. The first step of the asbestos removal was cleaning which resulted in extremely loud noises, shaking, and odors within our unit. We reached out to Tim Goins, the now-departed GHI employee in charge of this project, and were told this was normal and to be expected; expected for him, but not for us nor other Members as we were never given notification before work started. Mr. Goins then explained that the asbestos remediation project was a 3-step process. Cleaning was the first step and entailed removing old vapor barrier, insulation, trash, and other debris. The second step would be the asbestos removal. The third and final step would be part of the crawl space improvement project and included encapsulating the asbestos, installing the vapor barrier, and installing the insulation. Mr. Goins told me this process would last three weeks and was scheduled to be completed the week of Thanksgiving. After reaching out to Joe Wiehagan, Director of HIP, we were told this information was incorrect and that the crawl space insulation crew was so far behind schedule that we would not have insulation installed until mid-February 2019 at the earliest.

 

After receiving this news, I reached out to GHI management and was put in contact with Assistant General Manager Tom Sporney. Mr. Sporney told me that due to the remaining asbestos the insulation crews would need to undergo special training, and many crew members refused work due to health and safety concerns. This resulted in the insulation contractors falling months behind schedule as asbestos training was needed and some crew members refused work due to the asbestos. The contractors having fewer crews on site than originally scheduled meant that they would continue to fall further behind the asbestos-remediation contractor. Mr. Sporney told me that they reached out to the insulation contractors in August to inquire when new crews would be hired, but never heard back from them. As of November 21, 2018, Mr. Sporney claimed they had not heard back from the contractors. I ended the conversation by telling Mr. Sporney that expecting us to go the entire winter without insulation was unacceptable, and that he and GHI needed to have taken proactive actions to ensure we were not put in this position to begin with.

 

Going the entire winter without insulation in our units can cause a number of problems. For our court, some of these problems have already started to occur in many of our homes. The obvious is higher energy costs with dropping temperatures. We went through HIP in 2017 and were significantly warmer and more comfortable in our home in comparison to years prior.  However, since removal of the insulation, our home has been running at least 8 degrees colder than average and our electricity bill increased 63.25% from the same billing cycle in 2017. We are no longer able to walk around our house barefoot or even with socks as the flooring is cold on our first floor living space. My neighbor in an end unit is suffering the same effects but to a worse degree, including cold air seeping into her house through the floors.

 

These issues could get much worse if this winter’s temperatures match those of the last few years. If we have prolonged periods of extreme cold, not only will our bills be higher and our houses colder, we risk having frozen water pipes which can burst and cause thousands of dollars in repairs for our co-op and its Members who have to replace their own damaged property.

 

More troubling has been Tom Sporney and GHI’s response to these issues. Throughout recent Board meetings, Board Members have asked GHI management and staff for reassurances that both contractors were still on pace to meet our needs and ensure that time gaps between the two projects was kept to a minimum to avoid the very issues we are currently having. Not only has GHI management and staff assured us that the projects were on schedule, but they failed to notify the Board when information indicated that contractors were BEHIND schedule. According to Mr. Sporney, GHI management had a closed-door meeting with the Board President Steve Skolnik and Vice President Stephen Brodd, notifying them of this delay. Not only did GHI dismiss the worries expressed by a Board Member during an open Board meeting, neither GHI nor Mr. Skolnik or Mr. Brodd alerted the rest of the Board or us, the Members, of the impending delays and related issues. Instead, they allowed us to stay in the dark about this issue and allowed the asbestos remediation contractors to continue removing our insulation all the while knowing that many courts would go through the winter with no insulation in their crawlspaces.
Editor’s Note: The delay was first mentioned to Members via the December 10, 2018 GHI E-News email. GHI alerted the Board and Members of the delay at the following Town Hall Meetings which took place on December 9 & 13, 2018.

 

After raising my concerns to GHI, I was told that our court would be bumped up to the top of the contractor’s list and work would begin immediately after they were finished with their current court. Many people in my court are happy about this development; I am not. GHI’s response is one of appeasement and complacency. Instead of directly addressing the issue and finding a fix for the issue, they have simply moved us to the top of the list at the expense of  the rest of the cooperative. GHI is simply covering the issue by helping only those courts currently aware of the situation and demanding solutions rather than communicating about and fixing the problem. Taking a proactive response to issues and staying in constant contact with contractors and management would help alleviate these issues and keep the Cooperative first. GHI instead attempts to fix issues with “band-aids.” This hurts everyone.

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