Housing Authority will use federal funds to improve 3 St. Croix housing communities
Published: August 29, 2013
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ST. CROIX - The federal official who oversees the V.I. Housing Authority on Wednesday approved the use of more than $4.4 million in federal funds for a variety of projects, including the rehabilitation of some long-vacant units at three St. Croix housing communities.
As a group, those three housing communities - William's Delight Villas, Walter I.M. Hodge Pavilion and Ludvig Harrigan Court - have more long-term vacant apartments than occupied ones, and the goal is to get those offline apartments reworked and rehabilitated by the end of 2014, officials said.
However, the discovery of asbestos in the ceiling and floor tiles in some of the units at Hodge has bumped up the estimated cost of the project by approximately $1.2 million for asbestos abatement, according to Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham.
In an interview, Graham told The Daily News that some of the Walter I.M. Hodge apartments where the asbestos was found were occupied at the time, but the authority relocated the families that were living in those units. Some of the units did not have the asbestos problem, he said.
However, the Housing Authority has divided the rehab work to be done at Hodge - which was built in 1971 - into two phases. None of the apartments in the second phase - occupied or unoccupied - has yet had asbestos testing done, Graham said.
Exposure to asbestos is considered a health hazard. But the hazard occurs when the asbestos is disturbed and tiny fibers are released into the air. Those fibers can accumulate and get trapped in the lungs, causing health problems, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Graham said that the Housing Authority intends to test the remaining apartments and units in Hodge when it begins working on Phase II of the rehabilitation project. The testing would be done before the rehab work is done, which likely would disturb the asbestos if it is present.
At Wednesday's meeting, Kimberly Wize, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official who acts as the Housing Authority's board, formally accepted and OK'd utilizing the 2013 Capital Fund Program Grant of $4,489,509 for management improvements; administration, fees and costs; and physical improvements.
"We are grateful to have the funds," Graham said during the meeting. "We are going to put them to good use."
Some of the money is to be used for rehabilitating apartments, including those at the three communities on St. Croix and units at Tutu Hi-Rise and Bovoni on St. Thomas, Graham said after the meeting.
Some of the money is to be used to upgrade water infrastructure to reduce leaks, while some will be used for operations, according to the Housing Authority.
Part of the money - $518,326 - is being used to pay money back to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, stemming from the improper use of FEMA grant money received after Hurricanes Hugo and Marilyn, according to Graham. The payment is part of an agreement with FEMA.
In other action, Wize approved:
- Using two other HUD grants from different pots of money - a First Increment Replacement Housing Factor Grant of $531,301 for replacement housing or vacant unit rehabilitation, and a $34,590 Second Increment Replacement Housing Factor Grant - for replacement housing or vacant unit rehabilitation.
- The Housing Authority submitting a disposition application to HUD for two temporary easements at Oswald Harris Court on St. Thomas.
Graham said the V.I. Government wants the easements to provide a staging area for a road widening project Public Works is planning for Raphune Hill. The request will involve demolishing two units and the temporary easement, Graham said. The Housing Authority negotiated a price of $164,200, according to the paperwork.
The application will have to be approved by HUD before the matter is settled.
In other discussion at Wednesday's meeting, Wize heard from James Wakefield, president of the William's Delight tenants' council, about his concerns for that housing community, including the high crime rate that residents face and his perception that not enough is being done about it.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email email@example.com.