Franklin residents without hot water for weeks after blast get help


FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — Residents of a Franklin apartment complex who were without hot water or gas for weeks after a nearby duplex explosion have been offered free hotel rooms.

the explosion happened in the 700 block of Cameron Street around 10:45 p.m. on Friday April 15, and left a man dead and a woman seriously injured.

A propane leak is believed to have contributed to the explosion, so lines to the Berkley Court flats have been closed in the meantime for the investigation.

On Wednesday, the City of Franklin announced that VCDC, a Virginia-based nonprofit that helped provide capital investment for Berkley Court apartment renovations beginning in 2015, is paying for hotel rooms, meals and transportation expenses for residents who choose to relocate temporarily.

Some of the residents, such as residents with disabilities and those whose homes were slightly damaged by the blast, already had the option of moving into hotels within days of the incident, according to the city.

The city says residents also have the option of staying in their apartments and having their monthly rent waived until hot water is restored. A shower trailer that has been installed will remain on the property.

“We know residents need action to restore their community and be able to have hot water and a boiler
readily available shower,” Robert Newman, VCDC President and CEO, said in a statement. “While we have been
working diligently on plans to replace current gas water heaters with electric hot water
tanks in each apartment to heat water, the process has become multi-layered and complex. We have
simultaneously focused on additional short-term solutions in the meantime.

VCDC says it is set to install electric water heaters to replace gas heaters as a long-term solution, with the aim of starting installation as early as next week. They say the transition could be hampered by the regulatory process for switching from gas to electric, but the city is prepared to expedite any reviews, permits, etc.

“We are encouraged to learn more about the progress of solutions to the lack of hot water at Berkley
Court,” said Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt. “We have worked closely with the VCDC and the
community management company Severn Properties, to discuss short and long term
solutions. The city is committed to accelerating whatever needs to happen and we are looking forward to the
same with state agencies.

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