NORTH ADAMS -- The North Adams Housing Authority is reassessing heating systems at its properties amid renewed complaints from residents that their apartments are too cold.
"Although there are required energy conservation measures that need to be taken at this time, we are actively looking into other ventilation projects which would reduce the amount of outside air the buildings are ingesting, [which would improve] on consistency of the temperatures," Jennifer Hohn, Executive Director of the North Adams Housing Authority, said in an email to the Transcript on Friday.
Below zero days and generally chilly winter conditions recently have caused tenants to redouble their efforts to draw attention to the issue -- one also raised last winter, a comparatively mild season.
"I think that we're going to finally get some results," said Pearl Mullett, a tenant of 13 years who also serves on the North Adams Housing Authority Board.
Mullett and others recently sent out three petitions to local elected officials, including U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams. Mullett said "our seniors deserve better."
"I've had neighbors call me up in tears because they're so cold," Mullett said. "It breaks my heart."
A $3.2 million upgrade to the housing authority's properties was undertaken in 2011, enabled by an energy performance loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In order to meet the terms of the loan, the apartments on Spring and Ashland streets must remain between 68 and 72 degrees, a difference controlled by whether lights are on. Previously, tenants set their own thermostats, and 80 to 95 degree temperatures were regular.
"It's going to take some time to adjust," Hohn said Wednesday.
Temperatures have been repeatedly checked in various apartments using a highly accurate digital thermometer, she added, and a reading of below 68 degrees has never been recorded.
"My main concern is that that temperature stays within the targeted range," Hohn said. Meanwhile, the housing authority is taking steps to reduce the negative air flow in the building -- "the only possible thing that could contribute" to an alleged draft.
Tenants, on the other hand, disagree, and say that their thermometers do read below the accepted 68 degrees on occasion.
"The doctors tell you to keep warm," resident Mary Hanley said. "But how can you keep warm if you can't control the heat when it gets too cold."
Among a room full of residents the Transcript spoke to Friday, all had bought floor heaters.
"I can't go without my heater," resident Rita Beebee said. "Mine's on all day and if it doesn't get any better, I'll get another."
Some worried though that this additional electricity usage was bound to tack on a hefty sum to their monthly rent.
Last year's upgrades are expected to save the housing authority $7 million in energy costs and provide it with $700,000 in additional cash flow over the next 20 years.
The project included an installation of new high-efficiency gas boilers at the Greylock Valley and Riverview apartments and conversion of the Ashland Street and Spring Street apartments from electric to gas heat.
"It's a positive project," Hohn said. "There's few housing authorities our size that have been able to do a project of this sort."
To reach Phil Demers, email