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.
"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.
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North Adams Council OKs July Spending, Debates City Hall Job
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday during a special meeting approved a nearly $4 million budget for July that includes $1.5 million for the School Department.
The $3,831,954 continuing appropriation is the first as the city shifts to a month-by-month financial plan until the Legislature can pass a fiscal 2021 budget.
The appropriation was adopted 7-2, with Councilors Marie T. Harpin and Robert Moulton Jr. voting against after a debate over a City Hall employee.
The Finance Committee last week voted to recommend a so-called 1/12th budget based on information from the state Division of Local Services, which advised municipalities that they can could count on level funding for education and unrestricted government aid for at least July and August. This monthly budget can be done for up to three months.
The committee OK'd a level-funded budget of $17,769,075 on a vote of 5-2 with members Tara Jacobs and Ian Bergeron voting against because of concerns that the budget did not address what they felt were deficiencies in the arts and special education. click for more
The Public Services Committee is recommending new rates for the transfer station of $133.45 per ton, or $0.0667 per pound. The old rate was $126.59 with an average yearly cost of $469.38; this will now be $491.57.
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This week, the news isn't quite so awful with the state committed to level-funding aid through at least the first two months of fiscal 2021. But the district isn't out of the woods yet, Superintendent Barbara Malkas told the committee on Tuesday.
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