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UPDATED Feb. 26: Arlington Housing Authority’s February board meeting was briefer than usual. It included unanimous approvals for two proposed change orders, or PCOs; a report on a planned makeover of the AHA’s website; upgrades at AHA'a public housing sites – some on schedule, some not so much; classes ongoing and anticipated at some buildings; and staff posts needing to be filled.

The meeting started at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, and, per longstanding custom, took place in remote mode only. The meeting, led by AHA Chair Brian J. Connor, lasted roughly 20 minutes.

According to its website, AHA provides persons of low or very low income with direct housing in government-owned developments or subsidized housing in privately owned dwellings through various housing assistance programs. This includes family housing, elderly/disabled housing, subsidized housing and special-needs housing.

After a roll call, Executive Director Jack Nagle was asked to provide the monthly report. Also present, besides Connor, were Treasurer Nicholas Mitropoulos, members Jo Anne Preston and Fiorella Badilla and AHA's attorney, John Greco, with eight observers also online.

Members unanimously voted to approve the PCOs for the roof-replacement project at the Hauser Building and the panel replacement/switchboard modernization project at Chestnut Manor.

Improved website expected

While brick-and-mortar changes are being made, renovations also are set to occur remotely, resulting, it is hoped, in a more user-friendly AHA website that also will cost less to operate annually. “We’re pretty excited about this,” Nagle said of the makeover. “We’ve been working with the software company that manages our public-housing software, manages our work order system and everything in between. They’re going to be able to help us build a new website using the same domain.”

One important new addition will be available portals for tenants and landlords.

In response to a YourArlington question later in the week, Nagle provided more details via email.

“The name of the company is PHA-Web. The reductions in cost will be related to the annual fees for hosting and managing the website. This is [a net savings] even when combined with the new tenant and landlord portal features. The new features will make it easier for landlords, residents, program participants and their families to have easier access to important information like tax documents, rent amounts, rent arrears, contact information updates, online rent payments and more. The update will also ensure we are up to date with accessible features and other requirements.” He later added that sometime in April is the goal for completion -- and that the Wisconsin-based company serves housing authorities across the country including many in Massachusetts, such as Somerville Housing Authority and Chelsea Housing Authority.

As far as the money involved, he said, “The funding for this will come out of our operating budget. The total setup fee for all features is $4,000. The annual fee for all features will be $3,310,” he said.

Capital projects, some on schedule, some not

During his report, Nagle went into more detail regarding capital project updates, some of which are on the slow track. He said that the electrical panel upgrade project at Chestnut Manor is currently at a standstill as AHA waits for approval from Eversource for a new transformer. There is also a 12-month delay of receipt of materials for a switchboard replacement, which will continue to delay the project

Despite these difficulties, the sewage ejector pump project at the same location has advanced to the design phase.

Renovations at the Drake Village Complex have continued progressing, including the door replacement project, which is well underway. Additionally, the electrical panel upgrade project at the Hauser Building should be completed shortly, he said.

Nagle told attendees that the Menotomy Manor window replacement and underground electrical upgrade project has proceeded to the design phase. Meanwhile, the Winslow Towers water heater replacement has been completed.

Nagle then discussed educational opportunities for residents.

“The Giving Tree is doing painting and origami classes for residents at Drake Village,” said Nagle. “Arlington Center for the Arts is hosting yoga classes for residents at Winslow Towers and Cusack Terrace this fall and looking to add programming at Drake Village.”

Winslow Towers Tenant Association President Doreen Curley also shared what was happening on Winslow Street. “We had our Chinese New Year celebration, and it was a wonderful success,” said Curley. “We have our Chinese paper cutting [class] coming up, we have our standard game night, we have a bake sale coming up in March -- and we’ve talked about a ‘50s and ‘60s night in the spring.”

Curley was the only member of local tenant organizations to speak.

AHA is also searching to fill some staffing roles. For example, “We’re in the process of interviewing for a tenant selector/office manager,” explained Nagle. “We’re hoping to be able to fill that position in the near future. But it’s definitely just still going through the process at this point.”

After concluding that there were no requests for public comment this month, Connor asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting, which was moved by Mitropoulos and seconded by Badilla. 

April 25, 2023: AHA board seeks improved communication, as Menotomy tenants decline to sign

This news summary by new YourArlington freelance writer Cassidy McNeeley, completing her master's degree at Northeastern University, was published Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, based on attendance at the monthly meeting and later communications with Arlington Housing Authority Executive Director Jack Nagle. It was updated Monday, Feb. 26, with the name of the AHA attorney and the anticipated date that the new version of the AHA website will be ready.

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