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USF St. Petersburg dorm lacks hot water during finals week

A USF St. Petersburg spokeswoman says a new pump is needed at Residence Hall One in St. Petersburg.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times (2006)

A USF St. Petersburg spokeswoman says a new pump is needed at Residence Hall One in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG — As if preparing for this week's final exams hasn't been stressful enough, students living at a University of South Florida St. Petersburg dorm have been without hot water for almost a week.

On Monday, 363 students and staff at the seven-story building were told the reason: A hot water circulation pump broke and a replacement, which had been ordered from California last week, hadn't arrived because of a vendor mixup.

"It was supposed to be here Friday, but that didn't happen," said D. Kent Kelso, the university's vice chancellor for student affairs. "It's sitting on a deck in Jacksonville."

Delivery wasn't available over the weekend, and the package did not make it Monday, Kelso said.

That did little to appease the inhabitants of Residence Hall One at 500 Second St. S, who have endured cold water while outside temperatures also have plunged.

"For residents to be paying over $3,300 a semester and to lack such a basic necessity is a borderline criminal activity," student Philip Takacs-Senske wrote in an e-mail to the residence hall staff, which he forwarded to the St. Petersburg Times Monday. "There are a multitude of sick students in the dorms, and the university is further endangering their welfare by subjecting them to nothing but cold showers."

Initially, residence hall director Brian Akins told the Times that the reports were "totally inaccurate" and that the maintenance staff handles all complaints through a work order system. He asked a reporter which unit complained so he could fix the problem.

When contacted a second time, Akins referred a reporter to USF St. Petersburg spokeswoman Melanie Marquez, who offered this explanation:

The hot water circulation pump broke on Thursday and a new one was ordered that day, she said. It will arrive today and will take about an hour to install.

As for some students' complaints of enduring nearly two weeks without water, "that's not true," Marquez said. "I think the confusion on the time line is happening because the pump had problems on Tuesday … before it broke on Thursday."

Eloise Leng, a mother of one of the students living at the dorm, said her daughter thought the hot water would be fixed Monday based on information she saw posted on a sign. But by Monday afternoon, students were still frustrated they couldn't take hot showers or wash their dishes or laundry in warm water.

"I paid $6,700 for two semesters," Leng said. "If it was a regular apartment, people would be screaming and yelling."

The $18.3 million Residence Hall One building opened in 2006 as the first and only dorm on campus. While the hot water has been out, students have been taking showers at the school's gym.

Kelso, the vice chancellor, said students began the semester with another watery episode when a sprinkler system burst. It took 10 days to get water out of several apartments.

"It's not an ideal thing," Kelso said. "I completely understand their frustration."

As he spoke, a man riding by in a Jeep yelled out: "We want hot water!"

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

USF St. Petersburg dorm lacks hot water during finals week 12/07/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 12:13am]
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