The Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) board has voted unanimously to begin the process to create an organizing committee to reestablish a tenants' association at Menotomy Manor.
Four other AHA properties have such associations. The manor has not had one in at least nine years.
In other business Feb. 16, the board addressed parking issues at Winslow Towers, discussed a memorial for the late board member Joe Daly and his wife and approved $1.4 million for long-term capital improvements.
Also discussed was the process involved with the seat held by Fiorella Badilla, appointed last Nov. 30, as well as suggestions for improving the AHA website.
Here is a summary of the discussion and actions taken at the low-key meeting.
Discussion about communication led to Menotomy Manor representation. Preston noted that tenants should be able to communicate with tenant association presidents via computers. She said the Council on Aging will lend people computers.
To move toward a Menotomy Manor Tenants Association means forming an organizing committee and then an election committee, followed by an election. With no association for nine years, tenants don’t know or remember what a president does.
A motion by Preston that one representative from Menotomy Manor attend the monthly meetings of the other tenant association presidents until an association can be formed passed unanimously. The Menotomy Manor organizing committee will select the person.
Election for tenant representative
Tenant John Ward raised the issue of the tenant association presidents’ having the authority to nominate candidates for the AHA tenant representatives seat. He said that might eliminate a large number of people who might be interested. He said all residents should receive a notice that the seat is available. He asked that John Griffin, AHA executive director, not be involved, because the board hires the director.
Griffin said the state Department of Housing and Community Development is setting election regulations and that he has no input into who is elected. Board member Nick Mitropoulos said that the board will follow the rules when they are set.
Lisa, a Menotomy Manor tenant, asked how a tenant is nominated for the AHA board. Preston said the state has a provision for tenants to nominate themselves. Lisa asked whether this issue is separate from Arlington Fights Racism fliers she’s seen. Preston said the fliers are for Town Meeting member elections.
Preston clarified that the tenant board seat held by Badilla is just to finish out the part of Richard Murray's five-year-term.
Sheri Baron, a Precinct 7 Town Meeting member, said that she sees there is no reason why Badilla doesn’t continue in the seat, citing what she calls “a remarkable job.”
A discussion of this issue is on the Select Board's agenda for Monday, Feb. 22.
Pam Hauser, Winslow Tower Tenants Association president, asked about parking at Winslow Towers. If no parking is available, she said, the tenant is required to pay the town $364 a year for parking. That is for a calendar year, is not pro-rated and is not reimbursable if a Winslow Tower space becomes available, she said.
Griffin said that in the past, at Drake Village, the AHA purchased reduced parking from the town for $180, which the tenant paid. The state later ruled that the AHA cannot be the intermediary, and now Drake Village residents can make that request directly to the town for $180.
Board member Brian Connor said that not pro-rating the amount was particularly unfair. He said that, at a minimum, the AHA should ask the town to pro-rate and possibly negotiate for a better rate than $1 per day.
Preston brought up an approved bylaw providing for on-street overnight parking for people with disabilities who are low-income. It was decided that Griffin will reach out to Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine about this bylaw's provisions.
More about communication
Cathy Spencer, president of the Drake Tenants Association, asked about an email she received from Preston, who explained it aimed to get ideas for improving communication between tenants and tenant association presidents during the pandemic. Preston said she sent it on behalf of the AHA board.
Spencer said she has made herself available to tenants by hanging out in the downstairs lobby of the building for tenants to find her and ask questions.
Spencer described a service provided by a Minuteman Senior Services' representative that supports shut-in residents. Preston said she’d spoken to this rep previously about expanding the Minuteman support services to other AHA properties. Griffin said Minuteman Senior Services help in other AHA elderly resident properties, though it is in Drake.
Hauser said she’s visible to her tenants, at the mailboxes when the mail is delivered. The residents she’s most worried about are the ones who refuse to leave their apartments because of Covid.
Mitropoulos said the AHA is looking for ways to help, and anyone with ideas should get in touch with Preston.
Project updates from Griffin:
- Window contract for Winslow Towers: The contractor should start mobilizing at the beginning of March, weather permitting. To be discussed at the end of February with Hauser and the tenants association are scheduling resident units and where tenants can go for the day.
- Roof at Cusack Terrace: Applying for a sustainability grant of $55,000 for an energy-efficient roof. To do that, the building needs to be certified by LEAN.
- Resurfacing exterior balconies at Chestnut Manor: Waiting for a little better weather to send bids.
- Handicap accessibility bathrooms at Chestnut Manor and Winslow Towers are going forward.
- Handicap accessible doors at Cusack Terrace asked about at last month’s meeting: Doors installed today; library should now have a handicap accessible door, and both bathrooms have automatic door openers.
- Haven’t heard from the CPA Committee regarding new doors for Drake Village.
Joseph S. Daly memorial
Connor asked about forming a subcommittee to look into a memorial to make a proposal to the board. Mitropoulos said the family was very appreciative about the idea for a memorial. Spencer suggested a plaque and said Daly did so much for them. Hauser said Joe wasn’t just a politician; he was a statesman. Board attorney John Greco suggested that the subcommittee not be made up of a majority of the AHA board. The vote to establish the subcommittee passed unanimously. Members are Mitropoulos, Connor, Hauser and Spencer.
Tenant Marian King asked a question about receiving Covid-19 vaccines. She wants to know when residents will be notified of when they’re going to receive their Covid-19 vaccines at their residences.
Griffin said he is working with Christine Bongiorno, town health director. That includes filling out and submitting a survey.
Ben Stone from the state housing office asked about AHA data from the survey requesting 140 vaccines. Bongiorno told Stone that they could do all vaccines in five days, door-to-door similar to flu shots. Griffin said he is waiting for vaccines to get to the Board of Health.
Connor said we shouldn’t encourage tenants to wait, urging them to get inoculations earlier themselves at the state mega sites. He suggested helping tenants sign up and then providing transportation to the vaccination site.
Preston said having vaccines given at AHA is the safest, best program.
Preston said the AHA website is much better than some others, but it needs updating. The site could answer a lot of questions that come to the AHA office via phone calls. She said she would like on-line access to AHA policies and photos showing tenant diversity.
Connor raised the issue of having a resource to keep it up-to-date. A question in the chat was raised about multilingual support. Greco asked about privacy if posting tenant names.
Eversource energy award: New lights
Griffin said the AHA will get new light fixtures in the hallways, community areas and parking lots, which does not involve going into tenants’ units, at Winslow, Cusack Terrace and Chestnut Manor. He is still waiting to hear about Drake Village.
State residence service coordinator grant
Griffin said the AHA has been awarded the $40,000 grant. Of the total, $30,000 is for salary and the remainder for services needed. This does not fund a full-time position and is without benefits.
Preston suggested a social-work graduate student as part of their training. Job will be posted in the next few weeks after he talks to some of his staff to determine what’s really needed. Preston thought that posting the job might preclude a social-work intern.
Approval of an amendment for contracted financial assistance funds from DHCD
The vote on the amendment was unanimous for $1,406,131 in state funding mechanism for long-term-capital improvements and/or modernization on all the AHA buildings over a 40-year period. The amendment is to Contracts for Financial Assistance.
Approval of minutes for Dec. 16, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021
Connor raised discussion about the level of detail of minutes needed since meetings are now being recorded. Historically, minutes have been a summary, not a play-by-play. He questioned the accuracy of the December minutes and recommended returning to a summary and making the video available on the website.
Preston pointed out all summaries are interpretation, puting pressure on the minute-taker. Badilla recommended a transcription of the video.
Griffin said that if AHA board meetings switched to Zoom, it may have a transcription function. Greco said that, legally, minutes have to reflect the substance of the discussion.
Ward suggested organizing the minutes by topic with a timestamp pertinent to the recording. Connor liked Ward’s idea and asked if after Covid will ACMi continue to record, so we can post on website. Griffin said he will call ACMi.
Minutes were unanimously approved.
The meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.
This news summary was published Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Rebecca Gruber provided meeting notes, and Bob Sprague edited them.