Union Village tenant plans protest

August 25, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

A tenant planned to picket Westminster's Union Village rental office today, after trying unsuccessfully for several weeks to get her landlord to repair a stove that occasionally leaks gas into her townhouse.

Sarah Kramer, who lives on Union St., is involved in a dispute with Union Village's manager, Carolyn Kutilek, over the leak -- apparently from a pilot light -- and other matters. Ms. Kramer is seeking a meeting with the subsidized housing complex's governing board but, as of yesterday, had not received a reply to her Aug. 3 request.

Ms. Kramer tried to enlist other tenants for a protest of what she said is a lack of routine maintenance at the complex. If no one else participates, she said, "I'll be a one-man picket sign all by myself."

The complex is owned by Housing Ownership Purchase Effort of Carroll County Inc. (HOPE), a nonprofit corporation that seeks to provide housing for low-income and elderly people.

A Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. service technician, summoned last week to check the range, found a leak in the townhouse's water heater and turned it off. He said the pilot light problem was unrelated to BGE lines or meters.

BGE technicians cut off gas to an appliance if they believe a leak is dangerous, Charles Franklin, BGE spokesman, said. He said technicians will try to repair appliances if tenants agree to pay; otherwise, the landlord is responsible.

"Generally, we'll make it safe," Mr. Franklin said. "If that involves turning it off, we'll turn it off."

Ms. Kramer said she and her daughter, 15, were without hot water for four days, until Ms. Kutilek sent a repair worker.

Bernard L. Jones Sr., president of the HOPE board of directors, said he did not consider the lack of hot water an emergency.

"It's an emergency if they have a small child living there. If you don't have a small child there and the repair person can't get there for several days, you'll just have to boil water," Mr. Jones said.

A visitor to Ms. Kramer's home smelled gas leaking from the stove's pilot light in April, the tenant said. She said she cannot smell the gas because of sinus problems. She is also a smoker.

Ms. Kramer said that early this month, the manager sent a repair worker, who told her to clean the stove area under the burners. She complied, but the pilot light continued to go out, she said. Several repair visits followed, but the pilot light was still malfunctioning yesterday, Ms. Kramer said.

The volume of gas that leaks from a pilot light "is fairly insignificant," Mr. Franklin, the BGE spokesman, said. "Nevertheless, it should be attended to."

Union Village's 33 apartments are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Farmers Home Administration. FmHA increased its payments to HOPE July 1 after the housing group contended that it needed more money for rising maintenance and utility expenses.

The federal subsidy is $138,000 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, said Arthur Greenwood, FmHA rural housing chief for Delaware and Maryland. He said the new subsidy includes "a small increase."

Mr. Jones said HOPE retains a licensed repairman, but he could not identify that person. He said he didn't know why a manufacturer's representative who checked Ms. Kramer's range Monday lacked authorization to repair it, as the tenant reported.

"This is the first I've heard of this," Mr. Jones said. "I don't know why he wouldn't be authorized to make the repairs."

Ms. Kutilek said she had been instructed by the HOPE board to refer all questions to Mr. Jones.

Ralph Hooper, treasurer for HOPE, said he would answer questions about the organization's repair and maintenance budgets only if they were submitted in writing. The Sun submitted written questions to him yesterday.

Ms. Kramer said Union Village's manager has ignored violations of housing unit rules by favored tenants and has encouraged tenants to spy on each other. Issues between her and the manager include a living room window that Ms. Kramer says has been broken for three years and a dispute over whether her December 1993 rent was paid.

Ms. Kramer said she knew the complex's rules barred dogs and cats when she acquired a puppy a month ago. She received a written order from Ms. Kutilek to get rid of the dog, but said she hoped to be allowed to keep it for her daughter, who is ill.

Mr. Jones said he will reply to Ms. Kramer's request to meet with the board, but declined to say what the reply will be.

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