The Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) – under new executive-level leadership in the front office and maintenance department – is charting an ambitious repair and renovation program of the buildings in its extensive and aging portfolio.
The effort is possible because of a more than $6 million infusion to the authority in American Rescue Plan Act money from both federal and state levels, as well as funding from the Town of Arlington’s Community Preservation Act Committee (CPA) and Community Development and Block Grant programs.
At the June 16 board meeting, Executive Director Jack Nagle said these funds will allow the authority to address critical and long-term infrastructure needs.
“We’re very grateful to the CPA and Town Meeting members for approving the Menotomy Manor window-replacement project, and the Hauser building’s electrical panel project,” Nagle said.
Electrical panel upgrades, Chestnut Manor fire
The electrical panel upgrade at the Hauser Building, a high rise in Arlington Heights for seniors and the disabled, is the result of concerns with the performance of the Federal Pacific brand, which was widely installed in residential and commercial buildings from the 1950s until the 1980s. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission originally issued a safety information notice on the panels in 1983 and a revised guidance in 2011.
The panels were in use at the authority’s Chestnut Manor property, which was the site of a deadly fire in January. Although the panels have not been implicated in the origin of that fire – and the state’s fire marshal report on the cause of the fire is pending – all the panels in that building are being replaced. The authority requested emergency CPA funding to replace Hauser’s Federal Pacific panels, too.
“We requested some emergency reserve funding from the state to help fund the electrical panel project at the Hauser,” Nagle said. “The initial estimation was $200,000, but an electrical engineer determined it was closer to $400,000. We’re happy to get this additional money so that we can move forward with this project.”
Nagle said the renovation of the 18 units damaged in the Chestnut Fire was ongoing.
“We don’t have a definite date yet as to when the units will be available. They’re going to have brand-new kitchens, floors, all drywall replaced,” Nagle explained to the board. “Our worst-case scenario of when those units will be available is January 2023.”
Nagle also updated the board about the authority’s Chapter 689 developement plans.
“Board Chair Brian Connor and I met with the state to discuss different options about a way forward. I met with the town manager and some of the other key staff. We’re still in talks, and I will provide further updates at a later meeting.”
Winslow Towers president steps down
As part of the meeting held June 16, Winslow Tower Tenant President Pam Hauser gave an emotional resignation speech, citing health as the reason for stepping down from the position she held for more than 10 years.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I am stepping down as president,” she said, thanking the board of commissioners for all the support they had shown her over the years. Hauser was president during the multimillion-dollar window-replacement and building-envelope repair project at Winslow Towers completed last summer.
Connor thanked her for her service. “In all my years on this board, you’ve been leader at Winslow Towers, and have done a phenomenal job. You have my heartfelt thanks.”
Recruiting and maintaining active local tenant organizations has been challenge during the pandemic. Menotomy Manor, the family housing development in East Arlington, recently formed a tenant’s organization, but the Drake Village residents (the cottages and the Hauser building) have been without representation since last summer, while Chestnut recently replaced its leadership.
Annual plan hearing
Two of the five commissioners were absent for the yearly 2023 annual plan hearing, including board Chair Connor and Treasurer Nick Mitropoulos. Vice Chair Gaar Talanian ran the brief meeting attended by tenant representative Fiorella Badilla and commissioner Jo Anne Preston.
Nagle and Chris Partridge, the director of maintenance and modernization, explained how the authority is strengthening maintenance presence on properties, response to issues and outreach to residents. Nagle talked about the ambitious projects in motion to use the ARPA funding within the next three years.
“We’re betting on ourselves here, and getting all our upgrades into the capital plan, so we can move on them as quickly as possible,” Nagle said.
Talanian complimented the work of the executive director and his new staff, almost all recruited within the past year. “The AHA does pretty well compared to our peer groups in the state. I think we can only go up. The next step is to encourage public participation.”
The three present commissioners unanimously passed the annual plan.
The next scheduled AHA board meeting to discuss the housing-choice voucher program, known as Section 8 housing, is 7 p.m. Thursday, June 30.
May 23, 2022: Housing authority revives $2m special-needs funding
This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was published Monday, June 27, 2022.
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