Interim Executive Director Jack Nagle opened the Aug. 25 board meeting of the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) with stunning budget news: During a three-year period (fiscal 2022 - 2024), the authority is potentially slated to receive at least $2 million from Arlington’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation.
The act, also called the Covid-19 Stimulus Package, is a $1.9 trillion economic-relief bill passed by Congress last March. Familiar provisions of the extensive legislation include the $1,400-per-person checks, the increased Child Tax Credit and extended and enhanced unemployment benefits.
The act also allocates $350 billion to communities across the nation to address the impacts of the pandemic. Arlington’s portion of that financial windfall is $34 million. In an Aug. 6 memo to the Select Board, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that the town will use the funds “to have a meaningful and lasting impact on Arlington as both a town government and as a community.”
Menotomy Manor may receive funds
The residents of the housing authority’s oldest complex may be immediate recipients of the pandemic relief funding. The town’s “Budget Framework” indicates a line item for affordable housing called “Housing Authority Capital,” providing $500,000 in fiscal 2022 (07/01/2021-06/30/2022), and $1.5 million in fiscal 2023.
In his report, Nagle said that “we had productive conversations with the town manager and the director of the department of planning and community development [Jennifer Raitt]. We are hopeful that the Town of Arlington will keep this ARPA funding earmarked for the housing-authority capital improvements. The funding will be very important in our pursuit to replace the windows at Menotomy Manor.”
Manor residents have expressed repeated and increasing concerns over their aged, drafty, leaking and energy-inefficient windows, which have led to high utility bills for tenants of the low-income housing development.
At last January's board meeting, former Menotomy Manor tenants’ association president Marian King said that “nothing has been done with the windows since the 1980s. We were always told that there wasn’t money for it or that maintenance would take care of it or whatever, but nothing ever got done.”
Window costs consume capital
Over the past several years, window-replacement costs at some of the complexes for the elderly have taken a big chunk out of the authority’s capital budget. The ongoing project at Winslow Towers to replace windows and repair the building envelope cost the authority $2.5 million ($500,000 came from the town’s Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) fund).
In 2017, the authority authorized $1.4 million to replace leaky windows at the Hauser Building, a 144-unit building in Arlington Heights.
This past June, the housing board approved a $40,000 Menotomy Manor window study in the fiscal 2022 budget. The ARPA funding could significantly accelerate the much-needed, multimillion-dollar window-replacement project at Menotomy Manor. In a statement, Raitt said that “ARPA funds could offset capital costs that may be stalled due to a lack of state support.”
Community input to the ARPA funding is open until Sept. 9, followed that evening by a virtual town forum. The updated framework will be presented to the Select Board on Sept. 13, with a final framework presented to the Select Board for vote on Sept. 27. The housing authority will brief the community on this planned funding at the October meeting.
Covid and pest-control updates
Nagle said the authority has communicated the town’s mask mandate to all staff and housing residents. He also said that Christine Bongiorno, Arlington’s director of health and human services, offered to team up with the housing authority on an integrated pest-management program. “She made an offer to potentially provide us with a staff member from the health department who would be able to provide their expertise and knowledge as we create a policy and process that works for the housing authority.”
Other property projects
The $336,000 Cusack Terrace roof-replacement contract was approved by the board, as was the $362,000 air-conditioning split system and the $95,750 contract to replace fire pumps for Winslow Towers.
The ADA bathroom project for Winslow Towers and Chestnut Manor are out for bid, with Chestnut’s $129,000 balcony resurfacing (board-approved last month) scheduled to start within weeks. The Drake Village entry-door improvement project will go out to bid soon.
The property managers will communicate the work schedule and any other issues, such as parking to affected residents, and will be the point of contact for any questions, said Nagle.
Although Arlington was not hit by Hurricane Henri, July’s Tropical Storm Elsa caused flooded basements in several area homes, including those at Menotomy Manor, some of which reside in the town’s flood plain zone. Nagle announced that the Department of Housing and Community Development will conduct a flood survey at the family-housing property. He said the information will help “DHCD design climate resilient improvements and provide targeted funding accordingly.”
Tenants’ association reports
Chair Brian Connor spoke about the recent passing of Cathy Spencer, Drake tenants’ association president, saying that “she was a great leader. She put her heart and soul into [Drake] and all the folks there.” An election to select a new president and vice president is Sept. 8.
Neither tenant presidents Sharon Elkins of Chestnut Manor nor Mike McGinty of Cusack Terrace presented a report. Pam Hauser, Winslow Towers tenants’ association president, asked that the free laundry service be continued until November when the new management contract, which is out for bid, begins. Connor acknowledged that acquiring change is still difficult because of the coin shortage due to Covid. He said he would poll the board members and perhaps have a special meeting to extend the laundry benefit to residents through October.
Lisa Hersey updated the board on behalf of the Menotomy Manor tenants’ association steering committee, adding that a candidates’ night is scheduled for Sept. 9, and an election tentatively scheduled for Sept. 15 or 16.
Connor praised the group’s efforts, saying that although “it’s going to be slow to start, at least we’ll get it going.”
The meeting ended with the board voting to approve -- with minor changes -- the July meeting minutes.
The next meeting will be held remotely via Zoom at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15.
Aug. 10, 2021: AHA tenant seat goes to its first Latina rep
This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was published Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.