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The cleanup costs for Sun Cleaners on River Street is estimated at more than $100,000.

Completion of Dry Cleaner Testing Smooths Way for HOI Closure

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Housing Authority hopes to close out its moribund housing program by next month.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Housing Opportunities Inc. may be nearing the finish line finally for shutting down.
The hangup has been the problematic Sun Cleaners property that's taken more than two years now to settle. But with an environmental report finally complete, the Housing Authority anticipates dissolving HOI next month.  
Housing Authority Director Jennifer Hohn told the commission Monday that the contamination report for the 111 River St. property is complete and it is now a matter of figuring out the next steps.
"We just have to agree on some sort of collective action to dissolve," she said. "I think the city will agree to take it over now knowing exactly what needs to be done ... hopefully, next month everything will be done"
The board, which also serves as the 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 River Street property has been the last roadblock in the way of dissolving HOI. Some two years ago, the city was unwilling to accept this single last property without testing for contaminants.
"We have been trying to dissolve for about 10 years, no exaggeration," Hohn said. "It has been a monkey on my back for years." 
Multiple testings of the site were needed and, as of June, the testing had been completed and it was a matter of waiting for the report.
Hohn said the commission will have to sit down with city officials to discuss clean up and next steps, which she believes will cost between $100,000 and $250,000. This amount will be taken from the HOI account transferred to the city.
In other business, the commission voted to introduce a new tenant late-rent fee of $15 starting in October. 
"There has to be some incentive for them to pay their rent on time and there really isn't right now," Hohn said. 
She first put forth a $5 fee to be charged after the fifth of the month but the commissioners felt this may not be a big enough incentive.
Commissioner Richard Lavigne suggested possibly starting with a $5 charge but ramping up the cost with subsequent infractions but Hohn said administratively this would be too hard to execute.
New Commissioner Leigh Uqdah suggested a flat $15 fee that the rest of the commission felt was acceptable.
Hohn said she did not know of another housing authority that does not have a late fee of some kind.
She also told the commission that the Housing Authority is still working toward its RAD status and recommended that the commission continue the course instead of switching to a "streamlining" method. 
"I am moving more toward the conventional way for all of our units," Hohn said. "It is the safest option, it is the most secure line of funding, and that is probably the way to go." 
Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, allows U.S. Housing and Urban Development housing authorities to move their units to the Section 8 platform and to leverage debt and equity for re-investment without affecting tenant rights and rents, or housing authority control.
The streamlining option is for agencies with under 250 units. North Adams does not qualify for this which means it would have to split up some of the units to hit the 250 mark. 
This comes with a risk because then it would have to offer every tenant a mobile Section 8 voucher, which could mean would go elsewhere.
Hohn said they do plan to hold a meeting this week to go over RAD with the tenants. 

Tags: contamination,   dry cleaners,   environmental impact,   Housing Authority,   Housing program,   

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North Adams Finance Committee Reviews General Govt Budget

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee last week began its review of the proposed fiscal 2022 budget starting with the proposed $1,401,608 General Government section.
On Wednesday, it will be looking at Public Safety.
Mayor Thomas Bernard cautioned that the figures being presented were not set in stone. 
"This is an extremely preliminary look at where we are in the budget, some of the categories in General Government are still under review," he said. "We'll be tweaking those for a while, as we as we go forward but this is this is where we are at the starting point of the budget."
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