A call for heating help brings gas to Shirley apartments


SHIRLEY — A state legislator heard a constituent’s plea for help with a heating bill and a whole lot of people ended up in a better space.

“I called Jamie, like, in tears,” said Maureen Parlon. If she didn’t come up with a $1,000 deposit, Suburban Propane would not resume service. That meant no heat and no gas for the stove.

She knew that other tenants were in the same boat and arranged a meeting with state Sen. Jamie Eldridge.

Initially, he thought to help the tenants pay off the bills and get fuel assistance. But that would not help with the deposit.

“This is bigger than helping just one person,” he said. All of the 10 apartments at 4 Davis St. are subsidized. Cash is tight.

“It’s hard. It’s very hard,” Parlon said. She works part-time at a supermarket. Her adult daughter who lives with her is looking for work. They do not have the funds.

Neither do the other tenants.

“Realistically, the only way they would get heat is if we bring in natural gas,” Eldridge said. It took months of phone calls to get everything in place for the switch to natural gas.

Bringing National Grid, a utility company, in as the supplier provides a safety net. There are laws governing its actions, Eldridge said. The fear of cutoff could be reduced.

“I’ve absolutely had to do a lot of phone calls with National Grid to get them to connect with the building,” he said. “I was hoping this would be done in November so people wouldn’t be freezing in their apartments.”

The switch took longer than expected, but National Grid was there the third week of January to install new meters, stoves and furnaces.

“I am so excited,” said Jackie Esielionis who owns the property with Ken Martin a few days before installation. “I can’t wait.”

“We’ve been wanting to do this a long time,” she said.

The town was very cooperative when she applied for permits for the project. The gas main was across the street and a road cut was required to bring service to the building.

The property owner was responsible for installing the connections at the building before the gas company could connect service to each apartment and furnace. The only company she could find to do the work would not be available immediately, threatening to delay the project.

Fortunately, she had an ace in her pocket. The building’s handyman, David Roy, just happens to be a licensed pipe fitter. He was busy outside the building before meter installation was to begin.

The landlord had to purchase nine new stoves and nine new furnaces. One recently installed stove and one furnace could be converted from propane to natural gas.

Heating in the building is expensive, especially with propane, Esielionis said. The windows are new, but the ceilings are high.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, heating costs for the average household in the 2016/2017 season is expected to be $728 for natural gas and $2,176 for propane.

Parlon said heating bills for her small apartment were around $400 a month. “Oh my God. They’re huge,” she said. So far this winter, she has been using space heaters to keep warm.

Another tenant did not have that option. Both the propane and the electricity were cut off, Parlon said.

The brick structure, built in 1885, is right on the rail tracks. It was housing for families and men who worked in nearby mills. It is so close to the tracks that trains almost lean into the building as they take the curve.

Some bills refer to the building as the “Davis Inn,” Esielionis said.

Suburban Propane did not return a phone call.

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