Durham project residents speak out about carbon monoxide and rats

67 year-old buildings need serious maintenance:

In a tense meeting, residents of McDougald Terrace aired their concerns and frustrations to the Durham Housing Authority on Thursday.

Angry residents also pressed officials about the deaths of two babies at McDougald Terrace -- one child died Nov. 20; the other on Dec. 8. Durham's Assistant EMS Chief Lee Van Vleet told them that until autopsy reports come back, they cannot rule out the possibility the babies were poisoned by carbon monoxide.

Durham voters just approved a $95 Million affordable housing bond, so there's no reason why this particular project should be penny-pinched. What's the point in building new structures if you can't maintain the ones you've got? I know all the arguments about old structures vs. newer ones, I actually supervised several "troop self help" construction teams that renovated old WWII barracks on Ft. Bragg and turned them into office spaces. McDougald has 360 (brick) apartment units that could theoretically last another 70 years with the right investments, but the City seems to have forgotten it exists:

Residents voiced their concerns about carbon monoxide as well as rats, mold and the need for critical repairs. They called on the DHA to step it up.

"We feel like it's a complete mismanagement of the properties out here," One resident said. "We don't feel like they would want their children living in these circumstances."

Durham Housing Authority announced the findings of its three-day, door-to-door carbon monoxide inspection. According to Anthony Scott with DHA, 228 CO detectors were replaced or installed, monitors were moved to lower locations "in accordance with current best practices," and 417 smoke detectors were replaced or installed.

ABC11 obtained copies of the inspection report and found disturbing details.

Four people had elevated levels of carbon monoxide, while six apartments had elevated readings. In the email, the Durham fire chief noted that he saw first-hand that residents used stoves to heat their homes -- a huge CO no-no. One resident said she felt she had no choice.

"I called because my pilot was out, I called, I want to say somewhere in November to tell them my pilot was out," the woman told DHA. "I have kids. I'm not going to let them freeze to death because somebody can't come today. It took about three or four days, and I had to use my oven because it was cold."

Yanno, during that particular cold snap, several of my Facebook friends were howling for HVAC rescue and asking for recommendations. About half of them went to stay with friends or went to a hotel for a few days, until somebody could fix or replace their systems. That's a luxury that most McDougald folks can't afford. And they shouldn't have to need it.