Local News

Joshua Arms down to 1 elevator in 18-story building of seniors and disabled adults

The need to retrofit parts and replace electronics causing delays, spokesperson says

One of two elevators at Joshua Arms Senior Residences in Joliet has been out of order for five months, causing long lines at the 18-floor building, a resident who wished to remain anonymous said.

And the second elevator is starting to have issues, too.

“You have to wait 30 to 40 minutes and then everybody crams into the elevator,” the resident said, adding that there is “no social distancing in that elevator” and that “everybody is frustrated.”

The Joshua Arms website said it provides provide apartment-style units for adults age 62 and up as well as disabled adults age 18 and up who need accessible units.

“The buildings are so old. They just need a new elevator,” the resident said. “The older residents say the elevators go down every year.”

The resident said the Joliet Fire Department is “getting frustrated” with the elevator situation.

“Because every time they come out here, they have to wait until the elevator comes down to the first floor,” the resident said.

Joliet Fire Chief Greg Blaskey said the department has been to Joshua Arms and did initially have some safety concerns.

But because Joshua Arms is federally subsidized, Joshua Arms must get approval from HUD whenever it puts a project out to bid, which can slow the repair process, Blaskey said. So the fire department has submitted letters, too, hoping to expedite the process, he added.

“They (Joshua Arms) are working as quickly as possible,” Blaskey said.

While the first elevator was being repaired, the second one began having some movement problems, Blaskey said. This consisted of the elevator not lining up smoothly with each floor.

Other than the actual elevator car, “all of the moving parts and pieces had to be replaced,” Blaskey said.

“That’s why the elevator has been down,” he said.

In the meantime, Joshua Arms has its own staff members manually running the elevator, 24 hours a day, Blaskey said.

Barb Hailey, director of communications and advancement at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, which owns Joshua Arms, said nothing is wrong with the second elevator, even though all of its controls will be replaced once the first elevator is repaired.

The reason why staff are operating the second elevator is to prevent long delays and to maintain safety, Hailey said. One staff member is stationed inside the elevator to take people to their floors. A second staff person is stationed on the main floor, she said.

These staff people contact each other by radio or cell phone in the event of an emergency or if paramedics need to get to a floor immediately, Hailey said.

“If there is an emergency, we are prepared for that,” Hailey said.

Hailey said after initial repairs were completed on the first elevator, the parts weren’t syncing up with the new technology, which can happen “when you’re working with older parts.”

So when the electronics in the first elevator are replaced, the electronics in the second elevator will then be replaced, Hailey said. This will still leave residents with just one working elevator. Hailey does not have an estimated date for completion of either elevator.

A March 22 memo Joshua Arms sent to residents said repairs will take “approximately an additional 12 to 16 weeks to be completed” once the parts are delivered.

A March 11 memo Joshua Arms sent to residents said a technician from Anderson Elevator Company replaced a computer board in the small elevator, which then caused an issue with the group controller, which controls communication between the elevators.

The technician determined that the “programming/logic” function is now corrupt. As a result, the second, still-functioning elevator was intermittently stopping at random floors, the memo said.

The March 11 memo said these elevators have more than 20 different circuit boards and other electronic components. So an order was placed for the group controller and other individual controllers, the memo also said. These are not stock parts; they must be manufactured for these specified elevators, the memo said.

The March 11 memo said staff was manually operating the second, larger elevator only during the busiest times of the day, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

But then the March 22 memo said staff will “run the elevators” and monitor the front door 24 hours day, seven days a week.

The March 11 memo also said Joshua Arms’ account executive at HUD was notified of the elevator situation

Marta Juaniza, public affairs specialist for HUD in Illinois, said in an email Tuesday that HUD provides rental assistance to Joshua Arms and is aware of the issues with the elevator, that several repairs were made and that HUD “promptly approved” $250,000 on March 19 to modernize the elevator.

Juaniza said Lutheran Social Services of Illinois has kept in contact with residents and HUD about the situation and that no Joshua Arms resident have complained to HUD about the elevators.

“HUD continues to work closely with Joshua Arms owner to ensure decent, safe and sanitary housing for the residents,” Juaniza said in the email.

Blaskey pointed out that Joshua Arms has two elevators when it’s only required to have one. Hailey said Will County decided the requirements when Joshua Arms was built in 1978.

But Owen Needham, chief building office at the Will County Land Use Department, said Joshua Arms falls under the city of Joliet’s building codes.

“The buildings that we issue permits for are, 90-plus percent, are well and septic and not really connected with the city’s sewer and water facilities,” Needham said.

A call to Don Pallissard, building services director for the city of Joliet, was not returned on Tuesday.

Hailey said Joshua Arms has 18 floors, 242 units and, as of Monday, 215 people living there, Hailey said. Because Joshua Arms is an apartment building with active seniors living in it, there will be “intermittent times when the elevator is down for repair and preventative maintenance in any given year.” she said.

“The current situation started at the end of November 2020,” Hailey said.

Hailey and the March 9 memo said Joshua Arms contacted the Joliet Fire Department and the Joliet building inspector as soon as Joshua Arms started having issues with the elevator.

Joshua Arms also called in an elevator consultant and Joshua Arms is now in the process of having the parts retrofitted, Hailey said.

Hailey said the delay is not a HUD issue but the process of assessing the issues with the elevators and then making the appropriate elevator parts from scratch.

“It’s not like when the lights go out and you run to the hardware store for a light bulb,” Hailey said.

Hailey agreed it’s an inconvenience for residents to temporarily adjust to one elevator when they are accustomed to two. Hailey said staff works closely with residents to help ensure they get to appointments in a timely fashion. But given the age of the elevators, safety must come first, Hailey said.

What if the second elevator fails?

Hailey said Lutheran Social Services is being proactive about repairing the elevators and that Joshua Arms is keeping in contact with the Joliet Fire Department.