“I think these associations . . . need to understand that every single person should have a voice in this."
                                                                                 -- Brian Connor, AHA board chair

AHA logo

The Arlington Housing Authority board this month addressed Menotomy Manor's tenants' plea for improved communication by assuring them that tenant groups at all five of AHA's buildings would agree with a memo previously proposed by Menotomy's tenants' association president -- though the president herself seemed pessimistic.

In other action at its most recent meeting, the AHA board firmly rejected the present version of a $21,700 grant for the manor's deep-energy retrofit, saying that grant-condition requests from LISC, a prominent community development organization, seek too much oversight.

At the previous meeting, in December, differences appeared wide between the board's position and the Menotomy tenants' president's stance -- part of a yearslong push by residents for better treatment.

The tenants' association formed in 2021 to seek a voice within the authority. In December, association President Jen Hernandez expressed frustration over what she described as AHA’s inaction and poor communication. She asked the AHA board to sign a memorandum of understanding -- a binding document outlining specific ways of handling Menotomy Manor tenant requests -- but AHA Board Chair Brian Conner said the board wouldn’t do so.

Subcommittee created

However, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, via Zoom, the board took steps to resolve the matter. Connor appointed a subcommittee consisting of himself, board member Nick Mitropoulos, Executive Director Jack Nagle and Patricia Horgan, AHA resident-services coordinator.

That subcommittee plans to meet with the presidents of all five tenant groups -- not just Menotomy Manor's -- to ensure that each has input. “I think these associations . . . need to understand that every single person should have a voice in this," Connor said.

Connor reiterated that there is “no way” that those involved will not agree to what the memo says. The subcommittee aims to work with all tenant presidents to draw up a document based on existing regulations, Connor said.

“I think there can be some sort of agreement that protects the participation of tenants in this process,” Connor said.  "It needs to be hugely important that notifications are done properly so that every single person in these buildings knows that there’s an association and meetings and things like that.” 

Later in that meeting, Hernandez said that because Menotomy Manor is so different from the other buildings, she believes that one agreement for tenant groups at all five buildings may not be feasible; therefore, the board and Hernandez agreed to discuss it in more detail at a later date. 

Grant issue

As to the LISC grant, Nagle advised the board to not accept it in its current format. For his part, Connor cited overbearing verbiage in the contract, and board member Jo Anne Preston saw the grant as “totally inappropriate.” She said that the grant requirements are demanding open records, site visits and a level of control over the project that board members consider unnecessary given the relatively small amount -- less than $22,000 -- involved.

AHA attorney John Greco recommended that, out of courtesy, Nagle call the grant committee to reject the grant, rather than waiting for that committee to reach out.

The board unanimously voted to reject the grant.

In other business, Nagle noted numerous projects, including an updated timeline on the Menotomy weatherization project, the biennial rent determination and pest-control management changes. 

He reported that at Drake Village, the creative placemaking project is out to bid, the fire alarm system upgrade is underway and that there have been successful meetings with the contractor and designer to enable residents to express questions about and support for the project.

Design phase for Drake projects

A number of projects for Drake Village are in the design phase, including the cottage fire alarm and electrical panel upgrade, the cottage door-replacement project, the Hauser roof-replacement and electric panel upgrade.

Next month, work to replace windows and to install air-source heat pumps is scheduled to begin; an informational meeting for the residents will be held closer to the starting date.

Installation of air-source heat pumps at Winslow is underway. 

“Residents indicated that they are pleased with these units,” Nagle said, also praising Chris Partridge in the maintenance department as doing a great job communicating with residents.

Meanwhile, at Chestnut Manor, which was hit by a fatal fire a year ago, the electrical-panel upgrade is in the design phase. In addition, staffers are working to fill vacancies in that building. 

Maintenance staffers are improving the heating system at Cusack Terrace.

Manor weatherization

Menotomy Manor weatherization is underway and expected to be completed in September; residents are to be notified of the updated timeline. A meeting between the manor's tenant association and the designer for the window and deep-energy retrofitting projects is expected in upcoming months, the schedule depending on when paperwork is completed.

AHA’s contract with Terminix pest management ended last month, so the authority is looking for a different company and expects to present more information soon. 

The board has requested a project number through the Department of Housing and Community Development for the Chapter 689 development project on which it is working, which will cater to people with disabilities.

Senior residents in public housing are to have new rent levels effective May 1 per the biennial rent determination process; information packets have already been sent to these residents. 

State politicians aid funding

The board unanimously passed a change in fire-alarm systems allowing for an upgrade to the sprinklers at the Hauser Building, thanks to additional funding made possible by the efforts of state Sen. Cindy Friedman and state Reps. Sean Garballey and Dave Rogers.

“This is a great example of their advocacy in a way in which we’re going to be able to add another extremely important part of this project, where[as] otherwise we wouldn’t be able to,” Nagle said.   

Windows at Drake Village and Cusack Terrace are set to be replaced in the coming months. The materials will cost $231,000, but the effort has drawn support from an organization supporting energy efficiency and LEED certifications. 

“In reality, these two projects are going to save the authority potentially billions of dollars, which we are very very happy about,” Nagle said. 

Both motions for these projects passed unanimously. 

The minutes from the AHA meeting of Dec. 21, 2022, were approved unanimously. 

Doreen Curley, president of the Winslow Towers Tenant Association, updated the board about upcoming events, including an ice cream social, game night, KFC night, pizza night and a potluck dinner. 

Not attending the meeting was AHA board member Fiorella Badilla, who had a conflict.

Nobody from the public spoke.

An estimated 30 people attended.

The next meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15.


Dec. 23, 2022: Menotomy Manor tenants, AHA board vow to work on communication 

 


This news summary by YourArlington intern Renee Abbott, a journalism student at Northeastern University, was published Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.

Donate button, 300pxThis reporting demonstrates your donations at work to support democracy here.YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Your contributions are tax-deductible.