Lawrence housing panel weighs using outside agency for help

HUD will not pass the authority’s 2008 budget without some outside



NEW CASTLE, Pa. — The Lawrence County Housing Authority will decide next month if an outside agency will be brought in to help manage the facilities.

Mike Mancuso, housing authority board member, said he intends to propose the change at the Jan. 17 meeting. The issue failed to pass at Thursday’s meeting because one of the three board members attending abstained from voting, prompting the board solicitor to say the matter could not pass with only two affirmative votes.

Board member Tom Bashara was not present, and the board has one vacant seat with the recent resignation of Frank LaGrotta. Mancuso, Ernestine Wise and Bill Betz were present.

Mancuso said he proposed bringing in an outside agency at the suggestion of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“They tell us as an agency were mechanically broken. We’re looking for an agency to straighten this out,” Mancuso said.

Mancuso said the problems are not financial, but the trouble is with the authority’s inability to implement federal regulations decentralizing operations at all local housing authorities.

The federal government has asked all authorities to move to an asset management system that puts individual services such as maintenance and other services in the housing facilities rather than a central location.

A HUD official has suggested the Lawrence authority contract for up to two years with a nearby authority that has successfully put that system into place, Mancuso said. He would not say who HUD officials recommended, but noted there were three agencies named as possible ones that could take over.

“We are not out to get rid of any jobs. We are looking for folks with a track record of doing this right and training our folks,” he said.

In addition to not implementing the asset management system, HUD also has been critical of physical conditions of the authority’s buildings, he said.

Mancuso said HUD officials have indicated they will not approve the authority’s 2008 budget until the authority implements an asset management-style system.

Mancuso noted that at Thursday’s meeting, the board did revise the 2007 budget to give employees a bonus that was equivalent to about a week’s salary for each employee. He said the employees have been working under a wage freeze for the last two years.

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