The Meter is Running
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Solving difficult, recurring problems sometimes requires some unexpected thinking.
AUTHORIra Meister, Matthew Adam Properties
PAGE #p. 57
A continuing problem can bring unexpected costs, but management can help you sort through solutions.
We manage a 235-unit building that has had a problem since the day it was built in 1960. Every time it rained, the catch basins backed up and the rain water ended up in the elevator pits, the boiler room, and in the lower level of the garage. Cars were flooded. The city sewers were undersized and improperly installed, and there were a lot of other problems.
We had multiple engineers come. Everybody had a different cure and a different cost, ranging from $1 million on up. By chance, I met a supervisor at Municipal Water and Sewer, a private company that maintains water systems in New Jersey. They sent a supervisor to our building, and he opened up the manhole in the street and discovered our drain was flat, not really pitched. He told me how to fix it. We installed giant catch basins in the basement and a series of check valves so that water cannot come back into the building. Two huge pumps eject the water into the sewers. It’s called a sewage ejection system. The entire system cost about $300,000 – soup to nuts, filings, engineering, everything – which came out of the reserve fund. The job took about two months and it wound up paying for itself because we were able to reduce the insurance bill.
For physical problems in a building, there’s always some kind of a cure. There really is. And perseverance pays off. We’ve eliminated the floods, we’ve eliminated the repair bills, and the insurance has gone down. People said, “This is never going to get fixed.” We fixed it.