Monday, December 3, 2012

WHA streamlines preparation of vacant units

As published in the Record Journal Saturday December 1, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD - The Wallingford Housing Authority is implementing new measures to speed the process of preparing vacant units to be rented, the property manager said at a board of commissioners meeting Thursday night. The evening was markedly calmer than last month’s heated gathering.

“If we don’t get these vacancies down to an acceptable level, your financial picture won’t improve,” Maria DeMarco told the board.

The maintenance staff is now aiming to turn over a vacated unit in two weeks.

DeMarco told the commissioners that the staff was handling non-emergency work orders only two days a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays — so that workers can focus undisturbed on repairing units on the other days. Outside contractors are also being considered.

Authority staff will be repairing units just to government standards instead of performing major overhauls. The authority had been doing asbestos abatement in units that needed it when they became vacant, and DeMarco said that and other major repairs now would not be done unless required.

“We’re looking at meeting the housing quality standards, period, instead of looking at it as ‘This will be our only chance to renovate this unit,’ ” DeMarco said.

Tenants and board members asked if the less ambitious renovations would be shoddy or end up causing staff to continually make repair calls. De-Marco assured that the housing would be at a government-standard level.

“The point is not to make the housing stock less marketable, less appealing, less safe and sanitary,” DeMarco said. “What standard it must meet — that, we’re always going to meet. We’re never going to do less than that.”

The current number of vacancies is 22, according to the manager, down from September’s 24. Four of those units are ready to be leased; the others require maintenance.

DeMarco also reported that the authority’s efficiency units were leasing well, something councilors had asked about earlier in the year.

The Thursday night meeting was back to business as usual for the board, following friction last month over what appeared to be an issue among the management company, existing maintenance staff and the board. None of the parties would comment on the nature on the dispute.

At that meeting DeMarco asked for a separate meeting with the board to discuss how effective her company is at the authority.

Wharton Brook resident Wendy Liseo asked Thursday night if the special meeting had been held and the issues had been resolved. She was worried that the management company, hired in February to replace administrators accused of mismanagement, would leave and there would be a transition to another company.

“I’d like to know, because if so, I’m not going to stay here,” Liseo said.

The meeting has not yet happened, according to board President Michael Misiti, but DeMarco told Liseo, “Wendy, we’re working things out.”

“That’s what I want to hear. I really like all of you,” Liseo said, including the board.

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