Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority board ready to move its central offices
STEUBENVILLE — Now that they’ve successfully assimilated the Housing Voucher program into Washington Square, the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority board is ready to move its central offices there as well.
Executive Director Melody McClurg told the board Wednesday the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has okayed the move, “so the only thing we have to provide them now is a relocation plan” detailing how they would accommodate Washington Square tenants displaced by the move.
“There would be two relocations, McClurg said. “But we do have vacancies within the building.”
JMHA’s central offices currently occupy eight units at JFK Apartments, which McClurg said they’d be free to rent out after the move.
“You have to remember, we get part of our funding (based on) our occupancy rate,” JMHA Chairman Tony Morelli said. “If we take two from Washington Square and we’re using eight now, we’re going to be plus six in our percentages.”
Morelli said another plus would be having all of the administrative offices on the first floor.
“The Housing Choice Voucher Program move is going very well,” McClurg added. “It’s much more convenient, getting in and out of the building.”
The board also agreed to transition to an in-house pest control program.
Board member Daycha Wade said they could address problems faster working in-house, and said it would bring more accountability. She also pointed out tenants have a responsibility to maintain their spaces.
“If we have our own in-house (program) and make sure the tenants are doing their job, we’ll be able to get to bug issues a lot faster than if we have someone come in and have to go through scheduling,” she said.
Board member Mike Zinno was concerned that doing the work in-house might
“Given some of the problems we’ve had in the past, I hope doing this will bring more accountability,” Zinno said. “With the new position reporting directly to (Maintenance Supervisor Bob Ribar) I think we really have a chance to make a difference.”
Zinno said it’s unlikely the in-house protection would “totally eliminate” the need for bringing in outside contracts. “because there’s a lot of work. I think we’ll still have the ability to contract out.”
“I would hope we would be more efficient,” Morelli agreed. “It doesn’t mean we’re locked in, that someone else couldn’t help.”
Ribar said he expects preventive maintenance “to be a lot more common.”
“Residents will definitely benefit from this,” Wade added.
JMHA Security Chief Joe Buckmelter advised the board he’s planning to step down at the end of the year, though he’ll stay on longer to help his successor acclimate himself to the job.
“After four years it’s becoming overwhelming,” said Buckmelter, who also works full-time as a city police force. “I need to focus more on my family, on home projects that I’m falling behind on, and there are some changes coming in the police department and I want to be involved in that. It’s been a good experience, but I’ve got to step back. It’s time … we all know when it’s time to step back.”
Buckmelter said he’d like to finish up by the end of the year, “but if it carries on into 2021, so be it.”
“Together we got it done,” he added. “I think we’ve made some big improvements.”
The board is planning to hire two full-time, police-trained security officers, though McClurg told them she’d already offered jobs to three different officers who accepted the job only to back out.
“Joe will remain for as long as needed,” McClurg said. “We do have full intentions to hire two full-time officers. It will happen, we are just back to square one…It’s just not going to happen on the first, second or third try I thought it was going to, It’s a work in progress. But we’re not willing to hire someone just to hire someone.”
McClurg said the plan is to hire two full-time officers, “that way they can work at different times, not just 8-4.”