Tuesday, March 12, 2013

From Frigid Room Conditions To Frozen Water Pipes, U Of Maine Students Find The Grove Isn't So Hot

The Grove at Orono, Maine
What's it like to attend college in Maine and discover that your apartment is not properly heated--when the calendar says it's January? What's it like to realize the water pipes at your apartment in Maine tend to freeze in winter?

Apparently it isn't much fun because several University of Maine students are considering legal action over these problems, and more, at The Grove apartment complex near the campus in Orono.

Why does this story resonate here in relatively balmy Alabama? The Grove is the banner under which Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities builds and manages student-apartment complexes near some 40 universities around the country. Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families--the folks behind Orkin Pest Control and parent company Rollins Inc. in Atlanta--and showed during an Alabama divorce case styled Rollins v. Rollins that he is willing to use the court system in an abusive fashion.

Are UMaine students about to be on the receiving end of courtroom cheat jobs like the one Sherry Carroll Rollins, Ted's ex wife, experienced here in Shelby County, Alabama? We might soon find out.

Published reports indicate students in Orono have plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the product that Ted Rollins' company turns out. From a Bangor Daily News report in late January:

Residents of The Grove, a new apartment complex that is home to hundreds of University of Maine students, experienced a series of problems last week as a result of the recent cold snap.

Among the inconveniences were power outages due to transformers too small to handle the amount of electricity being consumed, frozen water pipes and frozen sprinkler systems.

Residents pay an average monthly rent of $525 per person, and Campus Crest touts its facilities as featuring "fully loaded living," with amenities not normally found in college dorms. But some UMaine students say the amenities do not always include heat. Consider the experience of Chelsea MacDonald-Coffin, as reported by Maine Campus, the student newspaper:

One day after an interview and a tour of her apartment by Orono town officials, she sent The Maine Campus a photo of her bedroom window. There was a 2-inch-high chunk of ice on its inside, freezing it shut.

MacDonald-Coffin's problems do not end there--and Campus Crest's response to her concerns has been less than reassuring:

When Chelsea MacDonald-Coffin moved into her new apartment in September at The Grove in Orono, she didn’t expect mold in her bathroom.

She said complex officials hired a company to stop the mold by bringing in dehumidifiers. An employee of that company then told her the problem wouldn’t be resolved unless carpeting was redone.

“I brought the issues to a [visiting] corporate representative,” said MacDonald-Coffin, a second-year management student at the University of Maine. “She basically said that I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

William Murphy, Orono code enforcement director, said The Grove met building standards. But residents remain skeptical, especially since the entire complex was constructed in nine months:

The Grove has had problems with heating, electricity and mold that some tenants say is causing health problems. Last month, tenants were plunged in and out of darkness for a week because the heat pumps used in the complex overtaxed its electrical system.

The kinds of problems experienced — especially when winter hit — led tenants and others to believe that Campus Crest, which has about 40 properties nationwide, had built a facility designed for warmer climes. They questioned whether it met building standards for northeastern states such as Maine.

During an interview, Murphy described the permitting and inspection process leading to The Grove’s opening.

According to Murphy, The Grove was designed to the standards of the International Building Code for this climate district.

“It has to be updated for the area. I don’t know if they have something in Florida but let’s use Florida as an example,” he said. “You can’t build the same kind of housing development in Maine that you would in Florida.”

Some tenants say they are considering legal action. From a news report dated February 5:

As of this week, 15 to 20 tenants of the new Orono apartment complex who attend classes at the University of Maine have sought legal assistance on problems ranging from mold and higher than expected overage fees for electricity to substandard construction and staff entering apartments without providing the “reasonable notice” required by state law, according to Sean O’Mara, undergraduate student legal aid attorney.

“I would say most, if not all, do not want to continue their leases,” said O’Mara, who recently brought the Bangor law firm Pelletier & Faircloth into the effort to get the student tenants’ complaints resolved.

“I can say that the number of people trying to get out of their leases with the Grove [has been] much higher than what I’ve seen for Orchard Trails,” another Orono apartment complex largely populated by college students.

What form might legal action take?

“We’re looking at potential civil options for these students right now. I’m not precluding anything in particular,” O’Mara said. He said that he also is exploring potential violations of Maine’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, the state’s basic consumer protection law.

The Unfair Trade Practices Act prohibits businesses from using unfair or deceptive practices and can be enforced by the attorney general or by consumers who actually have lost money because of an unfair trade practice, according to the state attorney general’s website.


Anonymous said...

Typically Ted. If you build it, they will come, and who cares what they get after they sign the dotted line? That is the Ted Rollins I know. Remember the balconies falling in Texas, the bugs and crime in Mobile, the woman shot in Georgia and found in the bathtub, and now students freezing in Maine. Parents should think twice before they allow their young teens to live in these apartments. Can we expect anything different from a man who beat a 15 year old child and later starved and left homeless his own two children?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 5:46--

At first I thought your comment seemed awfully harsh. Then, I realized, "Hey, this is all from my blog, from public records and published reports."

The natural inclination, even for me, is to think, "No person could be that bad." But that doesn't apply to Ted Rollins. He is that bad, and probably worse, given what we know about the North Carolina social-services investigation for possible child sexual abuse.

I know that he did, in fact, cause his own two children to be booted from their home and become homeless for a period. And they do, indeed, often go hungry, relying on food stamps to get by--under a constant threat that their utilities will be turned off.

legalschnauzer said...

A slight correction to the first comment: The woman who was murdered and found in a bath tub at a location of The Grove . . . that happened in Tennessee, not Georgia. She was in the U.S. Army, stationed near Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. If my memory is correct, she was stationed at Fort Campbell, KY, which is right across the border from Clarksville.

She was not a student, and neither was the man who murdered her. My understanding is that a significant percentage of Grove residents are not students, and that figure is quite high at some locations, especially at Asheville, North Carolina.

Anonymous said...

I love the part about the window freezing shut from two inches of ice--on the inside! And the enforcement guy says these apartments conform to code? What kind of code do they have in Maine?

Lodestar said...

Good Lord, these apartment complexes are huge! One of your links says The Grove in Orono consists of 12 buildings, plus a section of "townhomes." I had no idea they were that big.

Anonymous said...

The Grove in Orono houses more than 600 kids - majority being UMaine Orono students. There are 22 buildings.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and these 12-plus buildings went up in nine months' time. Any surprise that they are poorly constructed?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 6:59--

Thanks for the stats. No wonder full-time residents in many of these college towns protest when such monstrosities are in the planning stages.

I know residents of Fort Collins, CO, put up a particularly strong fight. Muncie, IN, had a similar effort. Campus Crest has a knack for getting what it wants.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if people in Maine even realize Ted Rollins' ties to one of the richest and most powerful families in the South?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 8:34--

My impression is that folks in Maine don't know much of anything about Ted Rollins. Most of the articles seem to quote Mike Hartnett, a UMaine alum who is Rollins' right-hand man.

Anonymous said...

So Campus Crest built according to International building Codes for that district! That says a lot. And Ted Rollins scummy attorney who helped railroad his ex wife and two children specializes in international law. Starting to see a pattern here. Ted Rollins should be the poster pedofile for NWO!

Anonymous said...

One student in Orono Maine said he watched the apartments go up in around 6 months and the workers were mostly Guatamelan. Wonder if they have green cards and how Campus Crest is bringing these people in.

Anonymous said...

What is NWO?

Anonymous said...

I read he just purchased Copper Beech Townhomes and apartments for $402 million dollars. Since Campus Crest seems to be involved in so many lawsuits, will the two companies be put together to have a new name or will he just take Copper BeecH public and make many more millions from investors? Legal Schnauzer, do you know about this?

Anonymous said...

Ouch! Board member Mike Hartnett received his degree in structural engineering from the University of Maine!

Anonymous said...

"Ted Rollins Receives 2012 Green Company Executive Award"

This is for "sustainable" "green" "smart" growth ie; ICLEI etc.

These buildings are probably, surely build below standard so that they will not last long.

legalschnauzer said...

I'm pretty sure NWO is New World Order. And yes, I've been keeping up with Copper Beech deal.

Anonymous said...

Why in the hell would Campus Crest be building according to international building codes and not those of the county this "Grove" is in? Sounds like that would be a good argument for their lawsuit. Has this county adopted international building codes? This is nuts!

Unknown said...

Americans are waking up to the reality we're third world. It's been very carefully planned.

From the wars, First Great Depression we know of, to this period of time where there hasn't been any time to fall back into a deep denial state.

Reality now is very real.

You write to anon @ 5:45AM, LS, and yes the harsh appears like words are an abrasive - until the real reality hits of how can the feeling touch compassion.

Sherry Rollins and her children have been traumatized and the intention is to break US.

Broken minds, spirits, hearts, bodies and that is the way the "governments" globally want the "human capital" to be traded and exchanged, and the pretense is pointing figures at which GOV is worse than the others?

Russia, China, Israel, USA! Same agenda partnerships ["NWO"].

Struggling to figure out which SUPER POWER gets to Super overpower the others.

US$ is to have competition as the reserve currency, Australia and Canada, by year-end, baton down the hatches, mates, December is the "Federal Reserve's BIG BANG 100 years Birthday" of stealing Americans into third-world status.

Shakespeare wrote about these criminals that called themselves Queens and Kings and other titles of oppressors for our worshiping.

The planet earth needs a vacation.

Anonymous said...

So the first reporting on this was over a month ago-where do things stand now? Have any corrections been made or are in process?

e.a.f. said...

building to "international standards"???? Gee I live in Canada and our building codes do not permit windows to freeze in winter. Usually city health departments step in if that happens. Interrupted electrical service because of "overload" problems??? sounds like there is inadequate electrical work at play. International standards, manybe for China, India, and other such countries but from what I understand of western european building codes and Canadian, doesn't sound like Rollins and co. are meeting any standards.

The question which should be asked is, who exactly passed these buildings? A chat with building inspectors might be in order.

Allow private companies to build so much housing for students is not approrpiate. Student housing should be under the control of the university. Obviously profit takes precedence over student health and safety. It might be time for the parents to take their children out of this housing before they develop respitory diseases from mold which will be developing in these buildings.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 5:30 a.m.--

Town officials have met with reps of Campus Crest, and that was behind closed doors. Not sure, at this point, if definitive and effective steps have been taken. Correcting some of these problems will involve quite a bit of work and expense. Will stay on story.

Anonymous said...

I recall similar circumstances with regard to building codes in S Florida after Hurricane Andrew. Those builders went to prison. They were trying to avoid high building costs by cutting corners ie not using enough nails in roofing. The roofs blew away in one large piece. Lazy scum comes to mind. I would not blame it on the workers either but rather Campus Crest who gave the orders!

Anonymous said...

If older generations were living here it's quite possible that some would not have survived the cold of winter directly or indirectly from the frigid temps. I would sue the sh-- out of Campus Crest!