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Long, hot summer



Senior citizens at the Kemeny Recreation Center on Detroit’s southwest side are hot and bothered — literally — and they want to know if the city cares.

They say they’ve complained to Kemeny employees, who have told the Recreation Department about the need for air-conditioning in the 46-year-old building for four years. The city, they say, has shown them no love.

“We need air-conditioning throughout the building,” says John Pippin, 82, who comes to the center five days a week. “I don’t see why we can’t have it.”

We gave Recreation Department head Charles Beckham a call to find out why the seniors are sizzlin’.

“The average age of Detroit’s rec centers is 50 years,” he says. “We have five over 70, three over 80. Do you know how much it costs to install air-conditioning in a building that old?”

Actually, no. How much? Pressed for specifics, Beckham couldn’t provide even a ballpark figure. We’re assuming it’s a lot, though — especially to a city facing a projected budget deficit of $266 million.

One thing that’s certain is that the folks at Kemeny are far from alone. According to Beckham, almost 60 percent of the city’s 30 recreation centers need air-conditioning. “If we had a budget, we’d do what we can,” he says, “But it’s just not there.”

Asked about the option of window units, Beckham says that won’t cut it, either: “First, they’re not very efficient. But when they go in, people steal them. Then you have open windows, and they steal computers and other things.”

The center got two industrial fans last year, and a large drum fan is being delivered this summer.

Beckham says the city is concerned about the needs of its seniors, and has a designated cooling center nearby at the Roberto Clemente Recreation Center. Seniors are offered transportation there on hot days.

That might help to cool their bodies, but not the situation at Kemeny.

Beckham says the cooling center, and those big ol’ fans, are the best Detroit can do for now. So, chill. If you can.

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