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Letters on the open tenant seat went out May 14.

Interim Executive Director Jack Nagle opened the Thursday, May 20, Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) meeting by announcing personnel moves and new hires, which belied his temporary status.

Board Chairman Brian Connor said via email that, "We're very pleased with Jack stepping up to the plate so quickly. He has worked under [executive director] John Griffin for many years now and I'm sure that has helped in his transition."

Nagle replaced Griffin, whose request for an immediate and unspecified three-month leave of absence was approved by the board last month. No reason for the leave has been reported. In an email, Connor wrote that the board will "not know of [Griffin's] intentions until shortly before that time as to whether he will return or retire. Once we know, we will make an announcement."

Besides the personnel moves, Nagle also changed the online meeting platform from GoToMeeting to Zoom, instructed attendees to use the chat function to be recognized by the chair and moved the tenant-association reports and general public comments to the end of the meeting agenda.

Nagle, all five board members; board attorney, John Greco; Winslow Tower Tenant Association President, Pam Hauser; and more than 25 residents tuned into the nearly two-hour meeting.

Tenant board member position 

Nagle’s detailed executive-director report opened with an update on the tenant board member position, currently held by Fiorella Badilla of Menotomy Manor. She was temporarily appointed last November, and will stay in the seat until the town’s Select Board appoints a representative to a regular five-year term.

Letters regarding nominations for the open tenant seat went out May 14 to the four active tenant association presidents and to all households in the housing authority properties. Menotomy Manor residents, who are still in the process of forming a tenant association, can submit nominations directly to the town clerk, Juli Brazile. According to Town Counsel Doug Heim, the housing authority has 60 days to submit between two to five candidates, from which the Select Board will make an appointment.

Resident John Ward reiterated his concerns expressed during the April meeting that the “tenant representative board seat is not a democratic process.” He alleged that Hauser did not widely distribute the notice for nominations of the open seat to residents and that the only name on that list was her name.

Menotomy Manor tenant association 

The family-housing development is home to 532 residents - almost 200 of them under 18 years old. The largest property in the AHA portfolio has been without a tenant association for nine years. On May 16, eight tenants attended an online information session conducted by Jack Cooper, executive director, Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, to explore the requirements and opportunities for organizing a tenant-led association. 

Improved communication, website 

Nagle said improved communication was a key part of his agenda. He drew praise from residents Elizabeth Dray, Sheri baron and Pam Hauser for his timely response to their calls and emails.

Bulletin boards will be installed on the back of each Menotomy Manor building for public information notices. He noted that the Menotomy Manor tenant association meeting notice went out in English and was also translated into four other languages. He wants to increase language services and “hire staff who speak other languages” in order to make the board services more accessible to residents.

Nagle has already epanded accessibility to the AHA's website with a language-ranslation platform featuring more than 50 langauges, including Chinese, Spanish, Hindi and Haitian Creole -- just some of the many languages spoken by residents of Menotomy Manor. 

He also said that problems updating the website have been resolved with a 24- to 48-hour turnaround for posting public information online. He also noted that the 2021 meeting minutes had been posted for January through March, as well as the annual plan for fiscal 2022, which will be discussed June 16. Nagle said he envisions a portal-type website that will allow residents to check their rent balance and potentially pay their rent online.

Two summer youth jobs 

Nagle announced a lottery to hire two people – and possibly a third – to do general grounds work at Menotomy Manor. Applicants must be residents 18 years and older, and available to work three days a week starting in July through September. Starting pay is $15 an hour. Application information will be posted to the AHA website.

Ongoing, pending projects update 

The Winslow Tower window-replacement project is on track, with the windows in the residents’ units expected to be replaced starting May 24. Nagle received high praise from Hauser, for his timely updates to residents about the revised schedule following earlier delays during Griffin’s tenure.

Nagle reported that the Drake Village exterior renovation would be completed in late July and commended the residents for “doing a great job in getting their balconies cleared” allowing the work to proceed with little interruption. He said the Chestnut Manor balcony project was going to bid in early June, and encouraged the residents to be thinking about getting their balconies ready, too.

There were resident complaints and compliments about the lawn-care service provided by John’s Landscaping, hired this year to provide grounds care and maintenance. Chairman Connor offered to look into some of the concerns but suggested that residents call Bob Cronin, director of maintenance, for real-time action.

Nagle explained that replacing picnic tables at Menotomy Manor was affected by the lumber shortages, but that they were working to find alternatives.

The town held an impromptu Covid vaccine clinic at Menotomy Manor on May 19, addressing earlier concerns about access to information and sites where the shot was available for eligible residents. 

Tenant association updates

 Only Hauser, the Winslow tenant group president, presented her tenant board member report; Drake Village, Chestnut Manor and Cusack Terrace presidents were not present. She appreciated the board’s decision to waive laundry fees until September. 

In-person meetings 

Connor said that the board will follow the state’s Covid guidance on public gatherings and hold the June meeting in person at the Drake Village meeting room. He suggested rotating the monthly meeting among the AHA properties.  

Garden project, Dalys honor and other business 

There was general board and resident agreement that the garden project is a great success. The board voted to fund gift cards and other financial expenditures “as allowed and determined” to facilitate and recognize participation in this project.

Nagle will research and report back to the board opportunities to help seniors with small jobs, such as moving furniture and hanging pictures.

The board unanimously voted to name the community room at Drake Village the “Daly Double Community Room,” honoring longtime building residents Joseph S. Daly and his wife, Janet, for their service to the community. They died in February.

The board approved the annual and regular meeting minutes.

Public comment, discussion

Kelda Fontenot, recent AHA board candidate, asked whether an online option would be available at the in-person June board meeting. Connor replied that they probably wouldn’t be doing Zoom, but perhaps ACMi would attend to record the meeting.

She also asked about the Freedom of Information Request process. Attorney Greco said that if the request was a housing authority issue, it should be directed to the housing authority office.

Ward praised Nagle’s performance as executive director, but wondered who was doing his old job of operations manager. Nagle responded that he was doing both jobs.

'Double-paid'?

Elizabeth Dray picked up on that thread and asked whether Nagle was being “double-paid” in his dual roles as both operations manager and interim executive director. Connor replied that the information “was confidential.” Dray followed up by asking whether Griffin’s three-month leave was paid. Connor said, “I think we can move on from that question. The public will not know at this point.”

In an email response to YourArlington's request for clarification on Nagle's and Griffin's compensation, Connor said that "DCHD sets the salary rates for all employees, and also sets the rates for interim employees. The board must follow the DCHD guidelines. [When] the approvals come back from DCHD, [Nagle's] salary will then become public. John [Griffin], like any long standing employee, has accrued ample unused sick time and will be utilizing that during his leave."

Baron questioned whether the community rooms located at the various AHA properties would be large enough to accomodate the public -- online attendance at the board meetings has averaged 35 people. She also encouraged continued recording of the meetings by ACMi. 

In a follow up email, Connor responded that while he "doesn't know what ACMi needs for space, I imagine there will be space for them to set up their equipment." YourArlington reached out to Nagle regarding capacity limits on meeting rooms and to ACMi on recording the in-person board meetings but had not heard back before publication. 

The board voted to adjourn at 8:30 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for June 16.


April 23, 2021: Housing Authority exec takes leave; interim leader named

 


This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was published Tuesday May 25, 2021.