MORRIS – The hot water tank in Saratoga Tower – located directly over residents’ apartments – has sprung a leak, causing officials with the Grundy County Housing Authority to fear residents’ homes could be in danger if it worsens.
“The tank holds about 450 gallons of water,” said Nick Ragland, vice president of Facilities with the housing authority. “It has had some minor leaks, which I was able to handle.”
Ragland said he created a gutter system to take the dripping water from under the tank to a drain located in the floor a few feet away, but this is only a temporary fix.
The fear is if the tank – which is on the seventh floor – starts to leak more or completely gives way, the hundreds of gallons of water it holds will flood down into the apartments below.
“This is like a nightmare,” Ragland said. “A lot of people would have damage, and we would be responsible to house them elsewhere.”
Ragland said he has seen the damage caused just from water overflowing a bathtub, and he can’t imagine the extent of damage from more than 400 gallons of water.
Brent Newman, CEO of GCHA, said the agency is required under the federal relocation act to house tenants until the problem can be fixed, which would add additional costs to the already significant cost of replacing the tank.
“This is an instance of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Newman said.
The tank is necessary to hold the hot water for resident use. The building’s hot water supply comes from two hot water heaters – one of which isn’t working – that wouldn’t be able to keep up the demand of the 95 units in the building.
The leak is on the underside of the large glass-lined metal tank, which sits just inches off the floor, making it inaccessible to try to fix.
Replacement of the custom-built tank is estimated at $24,000, money the GCHA does not have.
“We’re not a taxing body, we can’t just go out and say we need money and raise taxes,” Newman said. “We are dependent on Congress to fund us.”
Newman said the problem with funding is that Congress is funding Housing and Urban Development about half of what it’s annual need is, with the other half adding to the already $26 billion backlog.
“Eventually you have a problem like this because it’s been under funded for years,” Newman said. “We’re not a budget priority.”
He said there are two ways a housing authority is funded: resident rent, and a subsidy from the government to cover the difference between the resident’s rent and the total cost of rent.
A housing authority isn’t able to raise rent to gain additional money because regulations don’t allow it.
“The only other source of income is private income,” Newman said. “We can make more money through services we offer, which we do, and through private donations.”
GCHA has set up an online donation page at http://www.gofundme.com/7skujs where $450 had been raised as of Thursday afternoon for the replacement of the water tank.
Ragland said when the authority asks for help, many people aren’t willing to help what they can’t see, and no one sees the tank perched in a locked room on the seventh floor.
“There is nothing glamorous about a water tank, but it’s absolutely necessary for people to have water,” Newman said.
To donate visit the Grundy County Housing Authority’s “Go Fund Me” page at http://www.gofundme.com/7skujs or www.gcha.us. A check donation also can be mailed to Grundy County Housing Authority, 1802 N. Division St. Suite 507, Morris. IL. 60450. All donations are tax deductible.