Concerned resident speaks to JMHA board

PRAISES GIVEN — First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoretto praises the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority staff for the headway they’ve made “in several problem areas.” -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — A Gaylord Apartments resident told the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority board Wednesday it’s time they do something about people being in her building who don’t belong there.

“We’re having a problem right now with that,” resident Dorinda Saunders said. “It’s getting to the point where people come and stand outside the door and wait until somebody goes in, then they bolt in.”

Saunders said children, especially, are running through the building unsupervised, sometimes “screaming and hollering” to apartment dwellers to let them in.

“It gets mind-boggling,” she said.

JMHA Executive Director Melody McClurg said residents of the complex, which the government categorizes as multi-family housing geared to the elderly and disabled, shouldn’t buzz people in if they don’t know who they are.

“That’s the problem,” Saunders replied. “They’re letting them in, then they’re running all over the building.”

Residents recently were issued resident ID cards, as well as new key fobs to get in the door. McClurg said they’ll continue efforts to beef up security, including advising residents not to buzz people in without proper identification.

Saunders also suggested the board “look at the whole building … the elevator, floors and doors.” That’s being done at other JMHA buildings, but McClurg said those projects were penciled into the capital fund before she arrived in November.

JMHA recently completed items funded in its 2015 grant and is working on 2016. “The 2017 fund grant has to be obligated this year,” she said, adding that work list includes things like elevator modernization, flooring projects and community restrooms that will be handicap-accessible at the JFK building and concrete repairs at all sites.

She said the capital fund is a “five-year program for 2017-2022 that was set, turned in and approved” before she came on staff. “What I’m trying to do is get the projects moving.”

Saunders, meanwhile, also said there is a hole in the parking lot that poses a problem,.

“Nothing seems to happen up at Gaylord,” Saunders said, pointing out 30 percent of her income goes to rent. “If I’m paying all this money, I want to know I’m living comfortably and safely.”

In other business, McClurg provided the board with a breakdown showing they lose anywhere from $297 to $597 per month when an apartment is vacant, depending on the property. The information had been requested during the March meeting by board member Tony Morelli.

“Eleven units turned over since our last board meeting,” she said, adding they’re seeking bids from contractors interested in preparing units for new tenants.

“We’re always under the gun of getting units filled,” said 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoretto, who is completing his sixth year on the board. “You’re never going to get them filled. Those buildings were built when there were 35,000 people in this town — now, we’re down to about 18,000.”

DiLoretto applauded the board for the headway it has made “into several problem areas.”

“We have had numerous leadership changes and now are experiencing some progress with building maintenance, site management practices, building sanitation, screening procedures of new entrants and insuring that contractors follow and fulfill their obligations,” he said.

“Our recent board meetings have moved from complaints in the aforementioned areas to developing reasonable solutions in dealing with them. Hopefully, we will continue to move forward with our efforts to improve public housing opportunities in our area.”

The board awarded the contract for the JFK flooring project to C&M Environmental Corp., which bid $108,655 for the project.

The only other bidder, T&P Construction, bid $179,000. A new credit card policy was approved, while members will consider revised bylaws at the May meeting.