Tuesday afternoon, a whiteboard visible from the locked main entrance of the Heritage Hills apartment complex bore the question on residents' minds: "When are we getting hot water??"
Residents Wil Hanel, Ann Shorey, Bev Marthaller and Sally Woolard of low-income senior apartments, Heritage Hills, say they had been without hot water in their homes for two weeks after one of two water heaters in their building went down.
The heat, combined with the lack of showers, have had residents frustrated.
"Two weeks ago, everybody was kind of getting along. I've noticed talking to the same people that are friends of mine, just snippy. They're short. They're frustrated," said resident Wil Hanel.
Theresa Nesbitt, senior vice president of MetroPlains Management, the company that owns the property, said that although one of the water heaters went out on May 22, residents did have hot water, albeit less of it.
"There are two tanks in that building - water heaters - and one is down," she said. "The other one is functioning and people have hot water. What may have happened is that maybe if everybody was showering at the same time or something like that and the draw was high, people may have had to wait for the water heater to recover, but other than that, no one's been without hot water."
Midday Tuesday, The Press visited residents at Heritage Hills and verified that the low pressure water from their faucets was indeed cold.
The other building in the complex, Heritage Hills 1, which is attached but has separate, independent mechanical functioning, had its own two functioning water heaters. While the other building's water heater was being repaired, two empty apartments in Heritage Hills 1 were unlocked for residents' use of shower and laundry facilities.
According to residents, these two showers served over 70 people, but many chose not to use them.
"The water spills all over. When I went in there, I took one shower in there. I won't go in there again. Everything was slimy. There was soap all over the floor. I don't want to go and step in athlete's foot," said Hanel.
Hanel takes showers at his sister-in-law's house instead, an opportunity which he also offers to another resident.
"There's a gal upstairs ... she just had a knee replacement, and she's got an infection now. She can't even wash herself. We're good friends with her. We do a lot. We heat her water up. We get her out of there for showers at my wife's sister's place," he said.
The showers available in the empty apartments of Heritage Hills 1 are not fully handicap accessible, as they have no shower seat, making them unusable for residents in a wheelchair or those who use a walker and have trouble standing on their own.
Since these showers are on the second and third floors, the residents on the first floor had to carry their change of clothes, towel and any cleaning supplies with them - which can be hard to do when you use a walker.
Residents who chose to shower in their own apartment could do so with cold water, but they said even that was not a guarantee.
Resident Ann Shorey took cold showers in her apartment - when the water pressure made it possible.
"Last night, I went into the shower, got my hair all shampooed up, the water quit. I had to get out. I had to go into the kitchen because I had pots with (water), so I could take the shampoo out of my hair," she said Tuesday.
The residents of Heritage Hills reached out to whomever would listen, including the governor's office.
"I called Gov. Burgam myself, and I got his secretary on Friday. I called later in the day, and I left her a message. The wonderful lady called me back yesterday saying 'I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do for you, but we wish you the best,'" Shorey said.
A representative from Ellingson, the company MetroPlains hired to fix the leaking water heater, said he believes they were first told of the problem last Monday, though he doesn't remember the timeline exactly.
"We had to order parts. The parts aren't stocked in Dickinson. They have to come from Minnesota. We overnighted those parts here so they were here the next day. We were there on Saturday working on it," Al Dalrymple, branch manager of Ellingson's Dickinson office, said.
The day before Ellingson workers fixed the original issue, they discovered another problem.
"After we found out that the water heater was leaking, they still didn't have hot water, so I knew that there was another problem other than the leaking water heater," Dalrymple said. "There's a mixing valve that protects the residents from being scalded because of the temperature of the water, and that mixing valve failed, and that's what we found last Friday. We tore it apart Friday. We ordered the part Monday, and it was repaired yesterday."
Some residents verified with the Press Wednesday that they now have hot water. Thursday, Shorey said her water is cold to lukewarm, depending on which facet it's coming out of.
When Nesbitt told The Press that the reports were likely from "a couple of residents that do this kind of stuff pretty consistently," she may have meant Hanel.
This isn't Hanel's first row with MetroPlains. In 2016, The Press reported that Hanel alleged he and his wife found black mold in the apartment they rented from MetroPlains that contributed to their health problems.