South Richmond veteran organization hits another snag in elevator repair

Vets face another blow in elevator repair

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Liberation Veterans Services, an organization that helps disabled and homeless vets, is facing another major setback in getting its elevator fixed.

The elevator in the more than 100-year-old building hasn’t been used for decades. Volunteer and Korean War veteran, Lee Conner, 89, set out to restore the elevator, raising thousands of dollars in donations himself from his friends.

Conner and his group of volunteers had renovated the building’s basement, transforming it into an exercise and recreation room for the veterans at LVS. They hoped a working elevator could help veterans who have trouble walking, access the new room.

After thousands of dollars and hours of repairs, Conner and LVS now fear the decades-old elevator may never be in working order.

Conner hired a repair company in the beginning of the year to make the repairs. The contract stated the company would return the elevator “to service.”

But after the work, an inspector contracted by the city said the elevator needed new hoist cables. The repair company initially wanted thousands of dollars more to do additional work.

Conner felt that was unfair since the original contract stated “return to service” and no one had said anything about hoist cables in the initial estimate. Conner also said the company did not say more repairs may be needed pending a safety inspection, nor did the contract.

After a 12 On Your Side story, donations and offers of help came in.

Richmond’s local elevator union stepped up. Five elevator technicians from the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 51 dedicated time after their regular shifts to put in the cables for free.

“A bunch of my members called me and they wanted to know if they could help, and do volunteer work on their own time,” said IUEC Vice President Allen Thompson.

LVS was ecstatic. Within two days, elevator techs Joey Redman, Casey Dunkin, Casey Martin, Nick Thompson and Allen Thompson installed the cables.

“(The volunteer elevator technicians) were up until 11, 12 o’clock at night, putting in new cables,” said Conner.

The elevator was seemingly on its way to being restored to service.

But after the additional improvements, the inspector returned this week, and said more work still needed to be done. He also said the elevator wasn’t originally meant for people, something Conner says he hadn’t been told previously.

Conner was deflated. He and LVS question why the elevator company and inspector didn’t tell them the full scope of work needed to get the elevator up to code, initially.

"I would assume we would have been told right at the beginning... but we were not," said Conner.

Now, Thompson is trying to get special allowances from the city to put the elevator back in service.

“I can guarantee you one thing... If there’s any volunteer work we can do, we will do it,” said Thompson.

Meantime, Conner is working to get his money back from the repair company, and can only hope that the elevator can be usable eventually.

LVS says any money donated after NBC12’s story for the elevator was put into a special fund. So far, that fund has not been used specifically for the elevator, the money will be used to benefit the veterans in other ways.

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