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Residents of church-owned apartments plead for cooler air
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ATLANTA (AP) — Low-income residents of an apartment building near downtown Atlanta are pleading with a local church that owns the structure to fix what tenants say is a broken air conditioning system.

On Sunday morning, some residents went to services at Friendship Baptist Church to try and get help, holding signs proclaiming "Shame on Friendship" and "God is Watching."

Sharon Bridges said that as she was getting ready for church Sunday morning, it was 87 degrees in her apartment.

Bridges told WSB-TV that, "If you go in the halls at Friendship Tower, in the halls it's like 90. Maybe even 100."

"You almost be about to pass out catching the elevator," Bridges told CBS 46, an Atlanta TV station.

The Associated Press' phone calls and emails to the church office and messages left with two of its pastors were not returned Monday morning. Representatives of an affiliated group, Pennsylvania-based American Baptist Churches USA, didn't immediately respond to phone and email messages Monday.

A group of residents filed a lawsuit May 18 in Fulton County Superior Court. Their complaint says some residents "have succumbed to the intense high heat in the building and have been rushed to Grady Memorial while nonresponsive," referring to Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta.

Fulton County Judge Jerry Baxter has given the church and its management company 60 days to find a solution, and the deadline for that is mid-August, CBS 46 reported.

"These problems go back four or five years," Derrick Boazman, a former Atlanta City Council member, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Enough is enough."

"You go into the apartments and the thermometer reads anywhere from 85 to 87 degrees," said Boazman, who has been working with the residents to find a solution. If the air conditioning can't be fixed, he said, the church should move residents of the 100-unit building to one with adequate facilities.

On Monday, temperatures in Atlanta were expected to reach the mid-90s, with heat index values as high as 100 degrees, the National Weather Service projected. The agency on Monday issued a heat advisory covering areas as close as 30 miles south of Atlanta. The advisory also included large parts of central and south Georgia.

In 2013, the Friendship Baptist congregation voted to accept a $19.5 million offer for their church property so the Atlanta Falcons can build a new stadium downtown. The church was among two in the path of the team's $1 billion, retractable roof stadium, which is now under construction.

Friendship Baptist's congregation dates to the early days of the American Civil War, and the father of the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson once preached there.


Information from: WGCL-TV,