Held in person at Drake Village
The June meeting of the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) was held in person for the first time since February 2020. The past 14 meetings have been held remotely becaue of the statewide Covid restrictions put in place by Gov. Baker.
The well-attended event took place in the spacious community room at the Hauser Building, part of the elderly/disabled Drake Village complex in Arlington Heights.
More than 31 members of the public were present to hear updates from the board; interim executive director, Jack Nagle; and the tenant association presidents. Commissioner Nick Mitropoulos was absent.
Interim director presents report
Nagle opened in his usual brisk and efficient style, quickly ticking through projects in his director report, including:
- Winslow Towers: Phase 1 of the outer window replacements (facing Medford Street) is almost done;
- Drake Village: The exterior renovation will be complete within a month. It will be followed by the door-replacement project, which is to go out to bid at the end of July. This project is funded by a $250,000 Community Preservation Act grant;
- Chestnut Manor: Balcony resurfacing is out for bid and will be on next month’s agenda;
- Cusack Tower: the rooftop antenna is out for bid. The housing authority is soliciting a sealed bid for the lease and use of Cusack’s rooftop and penthouse space for telecommunications equipment;
- Menotomy Manor: The bulletin boards referenced in last month’s meeting are on back order. Only one person applied for one of the two posted summer help positions. An acceptance letter has been sent to the qualifying applicant for the July 6 position start date. Two picnic tables have been installed, and the authority is waiting on delivery of five more in the coming weeks.
Nagle moved onto new business, saying that the dates for the Covid-delayed building inspections will be announced in two weeks. The authority “will be notifying residents of the [Drake, Winslow and Menotomy Manor] developments on when inspections will be starting.” He said the inspections would identify “Housing Authority deficiencies and things that residents have to address such as lease violations.” The authority uses a third-party for inspections which are scheduled for mid-July.
To address resident concerns, Nagle said a grievance committee will be formed, composed of him, board members, board attorney John Greco and a neutral party. Suggested persons for this position include Jeff Chunglo, director of Arlington’s veterans’ services; Kristine Shah, director of Arlington’s Council on Aging; local attorney, Tim Buckley; Beth Locke, executive director of Arlington’s Chamber of Commerce; and a representative from the Arlington Police Department.
Offices open; in-person meetings resume
As of June 15, the Housing Authority offices are open to the public, and tenant association meetings can resume in person. Nagle said he was pleased to announce that Marjorie Cherubin hjas been named to the Section 8 leasing coordinator position and Tricia Horgan has been hired as the resident services coordinator. The authority is still trying to fill a maintenance clerk role.
Board Chair Brian Connor said the “state inspector gave the go-ahead” for the certification of the Cusack elevator project. The board voted unanimously to approve this certification.
Connor tabled the Drake Road antennae lease bid to next month’s meeting and moved on to discuss the Community Development Block Grant funds that the authority received to cover half the usual membership costs for Menotomy Manor youth to join either the Arlington Boys and Girls Club or Fidelity House. Family resident manager Janet Doyle will coordinate getting the word out via fliers and emails, and the board plans to revisit the issue at the next meeting.
During Covid, the town experienced a dramatic increase in water use. Board member Jo Anne Preston said the board needed to consider “water-saving measures and policies to respond to climate change. We need to conserve water in advance.” Some considerations include low-flow shower heads, which elicited a collective groan from the audience, rain barrels to capture roof and gutter runoff, fixing leaks and water-saving appliances. This will be an ongoing conversation, Preston said.
In old business, the board passed the executive and regular meeting minutes from April before moving on to the tenant association presidents’ reports. Neither Cusack Terrace nor Chestnut Manor presidents was present, and Drake president Cathy Spencer had nothing to report.
However, Mariann Donovan, Drake Village tenant association secretary, rose to recognize Cody Whitham, Minuteman senior services coordinator, who she said “came in every day” during the Covid crisis to check on residents. The room applauded Whitham who was in attendance.
Winslow Towers President Pam Hauser praised the ongoing window replacement, and was happy all community room restrictions had been lifted and public gatherings were again possible. Many of the room's participants burst out into spontaneous applause to that comment.
'Get on the bus'
Resident Arthur Luongo raised the issue of resuscitating the authority van service, saying that the current van through the Council on Aging (CoA) is not flexible in booking (requires at least a two-day preregistration), availability or convenience. He pointed out that the CoA van is handicapped-accessible (the Housing Authority van is not required to be ADA-compliant if there is a reasonable alternative in the form of the CoA van) and that the AHA van needs work, but he said that the service led by the tenants was “a lot more efficient way of doing things.”
Luongo argued that a van “within a senior population is a necessary service. It shouldn’t be funded whether or not it makes money.” He wondered if the Housing Authority “could get grants like the CoA does?” Nagle said he would revisit the conversation with the CoA, and Preston said she would research grants.
Menotomy Manor Tenants' Association
A group of Menotomy Manor residents is starting to form a tenant association and notified the board of a meeting scheduled for July 8. Connor said that although forming a tenants’ organization “is your game,” that the board would help “get you off the ground” with printing fliers. There was discussion about how the organizers will need to “canvas door-to-door” to get the word out. He also mentioned that once a tenant’s association is formed, the board “gives you funds to buy paper” and run various administrative and community events.
The question of faulty windows at Menotomy Manor was again raised with Connor, indicating that the short-term solution - pending the proposed window study in the 2022 budget – is for residents to file a report for maintenance to make as-needed fixes on a case-by-case basis.
'Daly Double' Community Room dedication
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m. Immediately following was the dedication of the community room to honor longtime building residents, Joseph S. Daly and his wife, Janet, for their service to the community. They died in February.
Although it was originally intended to be an event for Drake Village residents, board and staff, and the Daly family, Connor invited everyone in the meeting to stay. He welcomed the extended Daly family into the room and read the proclamation before unveiling the plaque. Following the dedication of the Daly Double Community Room, people mingled and ate treats from an extensive dessert table.
After a year of difficult conversations and sometimes even bitter recriminations during the remote meetings, finally being able to gather in person and to do so in honor of the ‘Daly Double’ was a timely moment of togetherness.
This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was published Tuesday, June 29, 2021.
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