The Housing Authority is anticipating environmental tests at the former Sun Cleaners will be completed this month.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The seemingly neverending saga of dissolving the defunct Housing Opportunities Inc. is dependent on one more test boring at its Sun Cleaners property.
Housing Authority Executive Director Jennifer Hohn told the commission Monday that the transfer of 111 River St. to the city is getting closer, and an end to the six-year effort to dissolve HOI is in sight.
The River Street property has been in limbo for more than a year pending tests for contamination. It's the last asset owned by Housing Opportunities, which is turning over its properties and funds to the city of North Adams. But the city won't take the long-closed dry cleaners until it knows exactly what liabilities may come with it.
The North Adams Housing Authority anticipates that one more test drilling will clear the way to officially dissolve its housing program.
"So supposedly there is only one more round of digging and I was hoping to have this all done before snow flies but they have to do a lot," Hohn said.
HOI, which is comprised of the Housing Authority board of commissioners, is a 30-year-old nonprofit program created to help first-time homeowners. The housing program has been told by U.S. Housing and Urban Development that it can't co-exist with the Housing Authority. The program was largely considered a failure and officials have been trying for six years to transfer its assets to the city.
Last year, HOI transferred all its properties to the city
except for the Flood House, which was given to the Louison House family shelter, and Sun Cleaners, which the city was hesitant to take over because of possible environmental concerns.
The city ordered a 21E environmental assessment, which if comes back clear, the city will take the property and the $275,000 left in HOI's account. Only after this can HOI officially disband.
Hohn has made clear at past meetings that early test results show no red flags.
Commissioner Colin Todd said he thought the final test would be conducted within the month.
"I think they are supposed to do drilling this month," he said. "I believe the last one is scheduled for October."
In other business, the Housing Authority welcomed new residential member Richard Lavigne.
"I just put in the letter from the mayor which appoints Mr. Lavigne as the residential commissioner," Hohn said.
Lavigne will replace former resident member Michelle Martinez, who left the commission earlier this year.
The commission also looked at the Housing Authority's fiscal 2019 public housing operating budget that went into effect the day of the meeting.
"If you compare it to the financial report it pretty much mirrors last years," Hohn said. "Today is the first day of our fiscal year and I need an operating budget in place that is why this meeting was so urgent."
The budget is $2,429,496 which is $173,614 more than fiscal 2018.
Hohn noted that part of this increase comes down to correctly metered water usage. This utility has increased by $43,000.
"It makes no sense, but we had water meters that weren't working that we finally had fixed so they were estimated," she said.
She pointed to other small increases and decreases and said she programmed in a 5 percent raise for maintenance and administrative staff.
"They haven't really received one in a few years and they did really well last year and they deserve it," Hohn said.
This wage increase does not include Hohn.
After adding in Section 8 and overall budget for the agency including capital fund money, Hohn said the budget is closer to $6 million.
"It's a big budget for a small town," Lavigne said.