Repairs to the electrical system serving upper-floor apartments at Franklin Towers in Portland will take until at least the middle of next week, the executive director of the city’s housing authority said Wednesday.

Officials had hoped permanent repairs would be done this week, but the work is more involved and time-consuming than expected, Cheryl Sessions said.

She said the replacement for a part that failed, called a bus bar and used to distribute power, was shipped from New Mexico last week and is now at the Cumberland Avenue apartment building for elderly and disabled residents. Electrical contractors have removed the one that failed and are starting to install the new one, she said.

Bonnie Smith walks to the door of her apartment in Franklin Towers on Monday, August 29, 2022. Smith lives on the eleventh floor of the Portland Housing Authority building that lost power from the seventh floor up on Aug. 26, 2022. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“They got the equipment delivered and have started on the installation, but it will probably take seven days,” Sessions said.

The electrical system powering the building’s 200 apartments failed on Aug. 26 after a thunderstorm. Power was restored to the first through sixth floors the next day and electricity continued flowing to hallways, elevators and the fire safety system throughout the building, which was built in 1969. But the power was out to apartments on the seventh through 16th floors, although a temporary fix completed late last week meant two or three outlets in each unit have been receiving some electricity.

But residents still couldn’t use those outlets for devices that drew a lot of power, such as air conditioners.


The Portland Housing Authority provided extension cords to residents so they could keep their refrigerators running, powered by outlets in the hallways.

This week, the authority decided to cut back on the meals it is providing for residents after distributing $100 grocery gift cards to residents to replace any food that went bad, Sessions said. The authority had been providing three meals a day, but in a letter to residents Wednesday, the building’s property manager said that there have been a lot of leftovers at lunch, “so it makes sense to stop it at this time.”

The letter said the authority will continue to provide coffee and cereal at breakfast until they run out, and will continue to provide dinner until residents can use their stoves again.

Beverly Collins is handed a dinner at Franklin Towers on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Collins, who lives on the 16th floor of the building is one of the residents with only a small amount of power still. She and others from the upper floors of the building come down every night to get dinners that are provided to them. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Wednesday, staff unloaded trays of hot meals on a table in the community room just after 4 p.m. Some residents sat at nearby tables to eat, while others carried their food back upstairs.

Beverly Collins, 83, said most residents she knows on the upper floors didn’t mind the change in what meals would be provided once they had received their Hannaford gift cards. She lives on the sixteenth floor and lost a lot of frozen food when the power went out, but the gift card will go toward replacing some of those items.

“I don’t think it’ll affect us that much,” she said as she took another bite of her vegetable fried rice.


Sameerah Kadhim, 70, said she wasn’t eating much of the prepared food anyway, usually just the vegetables and never the sandwiches. She prefers to make her own meals and is just waiting to get her stove back on the ninth floor.

“I like to cook,” she said with a shrug.

Other than the meals, the one major service the housing authority offered was to move residents to a hotel if they needed a steady source of electricity for a medical condition. Sessions said only one resident had to be moved to a hotel because of the need for air conditioning, and otherwise, residents were able to stay in their apartments.


Sessions said after repairs are completed next week, electricians will begin gathering parts to replace the entire bus bar system in a few months.

The 53-year-old building needs an upgrade in its electrical system, she said.


“I don’t think many places have bus bars now, according to the electrician,” Sessions said.

A year ago, an apartment flooded and water got into the electrical system and power was out on the building’s lower floors. The bus bar for those floors was replaced as a precautionary measure at that time, she said.

Sessions said it will probably take about two months to gather the needed parts and schedule the work to route electricity around the building’s two bus bars. That work should take just a day, she said.

Staff Writer Megan Gray contributed to this report.

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