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North Adams Housing Authority Still Waiting on Sun Cleaners

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Board of Commissioners made a pro forma vote to ratify Jennifer Hohn's annual contract. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Housing Authority is still waiting on the Sun Cleaners contamination report that is reportedly now 85 percent complete.
Per usual, Housing Authority Executive Director Jennifer Hohn had little new news about the status of old dry cleaning location and told the Board of Commissioners on Monday that the ball is now completely in engineers Tighe & Bond's court.
"My hands are tied so it is all on Tighe & Bond," Hohn said.
The board, which also serves as Housing Opportunities Inc. board, plans to transfer all the HOI assets to the city of North Adams and dissolve the 30-year-old program created to help first-time homeowners.
The property at 111 River St. has been the last — and the longest — roadblock in the way of dissolving HOI. Some two years ago, the city was unwilling to accept this single last property without testing the property for contaminants.
Multiple testings were needed and as of June, the testing had been completed and it was a matter of waiting for the report.
Hohn said according to email correspondence, the person who handled all of the fieldwork for the testing is no longer with the company so there has been some delays. 
She did note that the email stated the report is 85 percent done. Once complete it will be handed over to the city.
Hohn said she hopes HOI is dissolved before the Housing Authority completes its Rental Assistance Demonstration, which will allow the authority to move its units to the Section 8 platform.
The process is going smoothly but the director said they have to close out liens before final acceptance.
"We can't have any liens against any of our facilities at the time of closing. We knew we would have to deal with this," she said. "But everything is going very well we haven't run into any other issues." 
There is currently an environmental performance contract loan from seven years ago that has to be paid off. Hohn said she would have more information next month.
She also said her contract automatically renewed July 1, as it does every year unless the board intervenes and that it carried a 2.9 percent increase per federal regulations.
The contract allows for an evaluation but she noted that the board typically has not done this because it has had so much turnover.
Hohn recommended that if the board wanted to conduct a performance survey, it should hire an outside firm. However,  the commissioners agreed that it would not be necessary. 
"I look at the numbers and the high performing and all that the staff does and all that Jennifer does," Chairman James Neville said. "It is all on paper and it speaks for itself."
The board did vote to renew the contract as a matter of procedure.

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COVID Outbreak Hits North Adams Nursing Home; Health Officials Urge Vaccination

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Health officials are trying to determine if a significant outbreak of COVID-19 at a local nursing home is the highly transmissible Delta variant. 
North Adams Commons reported three vaccinated residents with infections as of Friday morning. The total is now 20 residents and two staff members, said Lisa Gaudet, a spokesperson for Berkshire Healthcare that operates the nursing home. Only one of those is unvaccinated, she said. 
The 119-bed skilled nursing facility is now closed to visitors and new admissions as health officials track down the source of the infection and determine if it's a variant. Gaudet said all residents and staff were being tested so the numbers may change. 
"Clearly we're hearing in the national and local news about variants that are creating these breakthrough cases," Gaudet said. "We benefited from this vaccination when we saw all of our infections go down ... So this is something that is obviously concerning to us."
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