The Little Agenda That Didn't Happen

The Little Agenda That Didn't Happen

Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority's (ARHA) three primary agenda items for Monday night's meeting were postponed due to stalled negotiations, questionable notification time and the desire to have the commissioners be better-informed about the organization's 2003 budget.

The only two items to receive any in-depth discussion weren't even on the agenda. One was raised by Commissioner Carter Flemming under "other business." She inquired if the Board should take a formal stand on City Council's debate about reducing the size of the ARHA board from its present nine members.

The second concern pertained to the lack of emergency evacuation plans being posted in Ladrey High-Rise since the recent painting of the building. This was raised by Otis Weeks, president, Ladrey Advisory Board.

A. Melvin Miller, ARHA chairperson, answered Flemming's concern by saying, "I'm not sure we should take a Board position. But each member who wishes can respond individually if they want."

He went on to state, "I personally would like to see them [Council] not tinker with it because of where we are in the process of Samuel Madden Homes project. I've been on this Board when it had five, seven and nine members. The number isn't the question. It's the people. But, Council appoints us, and it's their decision."

Vice Chair Carlyle C. Ring Jr. supported the existing number of commissioners. "I believe there is value in having nine commissioners. It brings a broader diversity to the Board," he stated.

AS TO THE EVACUATION PLANS, Weeks noted that with the elderly and some disabled population of Ladrey, it was an invitation to disaster and suggested that Code Enforcement should be informed that the diagrams and plans were not available. He also suggested that the doors of disabled residents be identified to help firefighters in case of an emergency.

Flemming said, "This would be a real tragedy if a fire occurred. It would be more than a tragedy without the evacuation plans" prominently displayed.

In response to identifying the residences of disabled occupants, Mary Ish, ARHA director, Housing Operations, pointed out, "This would have to be a self-declaration under privacy laws." To which Flemming responded, "I'm sure they would be more than willing to comply" for their own safety. William Dearman, ARHA CEO, assured Fleming and Weeks the plans would be reinstalled.

AT THE OUTSET of the meeting, Miller announced that a vote on the sales contract with Eakin/Youngentab, selected developers of "The Berg," had been postponed because negotiations were still under way. He assured the Board that there was no major stumbling block and that an agreement should be reached by the Nov. 25 meeting.

A stumbling block that did occur was the scheduled approval of ARHA's Agency Plan, which was on a single-item agenda at a hastily called meeting held on Oct. 7. On Oct. 3, Dearman sent a memorandum to the Board requesting "approval of the ARHA's Agency Plan, Section 8 Administrative Plan and Public Housing Admissions and Occupancy Policy."

However, the approval was delayed as a result of a letter from Sylvia M. Brennan, managing attorney, Legal Services of Northern Virginia Inc. (LSNV), Alexandria Branch Office, raising the specter that the approval process had not received the necessary notification time required by law.

In a letter dated Oct. 7, to Miller and the Board, Brennan noted, "ARHA is required by law to comply with the notice requirements," which mandate a 45-day notification period for a public hearing on the items under consideration. As a result a vote was delayed until the Nov. 4 docket.

Comments from LSNV were submitted dated Nov. 1. But ARHA decided to postpone any decision until its Nov. 25 meeting to allow the Board more review time. Miller noted that the comment period closed as of Nov. 4. He stated the staff will review the comments submitted and report back at the later meeting this month.

The final postponement pertained to the receipt of the FY ‘03 budget. Dearman stated that staff would "make a full presentation of the budget at the Nov. 25 meeting."

Commissioner Shirley Marshall expressed concern about the lateness of the audit. She suggested a request for proposal be developed to have audits done in January so that the results could be supplied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by September.

Dearman pointed out that this year's audit was delayed due to a change in ARHA's director of finance. He noted it should be ready for a September submission to HUD next year.