NORWAY — A series of problems left tenants in subsidized housing at 4 Hazen St. with only intermittent heat over an 11-day period this month.
The heat first stopped working on the night of Thursday, Dec. 8, when the furnace ran out of oil, tenants said.
"This happens at least a couple of times every winter," Darlene Paine, a first-floor tenant, said. "We would go three to seven days without heat."
Justine and Everett Gray, who rent the second floor of the building, said the heat has gone out three times in the six weeks or so since they've been living there.
"It's difficult, because I leave the apartment for work at 5:30 in the morning, and I have to shower before I leave," Justine said. "If we have no hot water, I have to go to family to take a shower in the morning."
The building is owned by Vincent Marcisso, who does business as Western Highlands LLC.
Over a six-day period, Marcisso's maintenance man, Sam Salley, and the Grays put five or 10 gallons of oil at a time into the tank in an effort to get by until Wednesday, Dec. 14, when an oil delivery was scheduled. The Grays said that during this period the heat was generally working in the evening, but not during the day.
The Grays and Paine said they took steps to manage the cold.
The Grays partitioned off a section of their apartment and used electric heaters to maintain a livable temperature. They also sent their 4-year-old daughter to live elsewhere for a short time.
Downstairs, Paine was using her oven to heat her apartment.
"We've been through this for the past two years," she said. "I've had pneumonia both times. The last time I battled it for six months."
Paine said she made calls to Norway Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman, other town officials, Pine Tree Legal Services and MaineHousing, the program that oversees her Section 8 subsidized housing voucher. She asked them to get Marcisso to add a substantial amount of oil to the furnace.
A MaineHousing representative said she contacted Marcisso to ask him to address the problem, although the organization cannot legally compel him to do so.
"We can inform the landlord of what their legal responsibilities are," MaineHousing inspector Amanda Bartlett said. She said she spoke to multiple tenants at 4 Hazen St.
"On Tuesday, we confirmed that there was heat in the building," Bartlett said. "They ran out of oil again on Wednesday."
The oil delivery that was supposed to end the problem instead revealed a new one. The furnace didn't work.
Over the next few days, Marcisso said he did everything possible to get the furnace fixed, calling in a contractor.
Marcisso said that part of the problem is that furnace repairmen are in high demand at this time of year.
"When I found out things were wrong, I addressed them immediately," he said. "Because I've had to hire subcontractors, I've had to go on their schedule."
Over the weekend of Dec. 17, the furnace was up and running. The Grays were receiving heat, but not Paine.
Salley came Saturday, Dec. 17, to work on the problem and got the furnace working temporarily. He told Paine that if she had any other problems, he would call a repairman to address it on Monday.
She said that on Saturday night it stopped working again, and she spent more days using her oven for heat.
Outside temperatures dipped to a low of 3 degrees.
On the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 19, 11 days after the oil tank first ran out of oil, a furnace repairman from KMM Heating fixed the problem, Paine said.