ACHA resident meeting held in Cairo, IL

ACHA resident meeting held in Cairo, IL
Letter from Sen Mark Kirk dated April 18 2016 (Source: Sen Mark Kirk)
Letter from Sen Mark Kirk dated April 18 2016 (Source: Sen Mark Kirk)

CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - Just under two months have passed since federal authorities assumed control of the Alexander County Housing Authority in Cairo after illegal activity by local authorities allowed more than 300 homes to fall into disrepair.

Temporary administrators hosted a resident meeting at the complex at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24.

Administrators fielded public comment from the roughly two dozen residents who attended and outlined progress and future plans for recovery.

No Answers Yet

Illinois lawmakers sent a letter to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development administrators concerning the situation in early March, requesting HUD takes steps to improve transparency and accountability at the complex as they begin the cleanup process.

Those lawmakers asked HUD for a response by March 25.

A representative of Senator Mark Kirk's office said on Wednesday, April 20 they are yet to receive a response to the letter they sent in March.

Kirk followed up on the situation in a letter dated April 18 2016, addressed to HUD administrators in Washington, D.C..

The latest letter requests HUD conduct an investigation into nearly $20 million in federal grants sent to the ACHA between 2008 and 2015.

An excerpt is found below.

"In 2013, HUD released a report that again found ACHA to be non-compliant with multiple federal and state housing and labor laws, in addition to discovering a 'significant misuse of funds.' Yet, despite acknowledging these issues, HUD continued to distribute funds to the ACHA, seemingly without taking the necessary steps to ensure the funds were being used solely for the benefit of people in need."

Resident concerns being addressed

A recent architectural study shows the buildings need more than $36.8 million in repairs, as residents continue to deal with mold, infestations, and inoperable, out-dated and generally-unsafe heating and cooking elements.

Representatives of HUD said in February the first things on their agenda would be hiring someone to get rid of bugs and mice throughout the complexes, as well as replace some locks that don't work.

Interim Administrator Towanda Macon said Wednesday that many buildings have been treated, and more will be treated in the coming weeks.

"Part of handling this is pure logistics," Macon said at the meeting. "In the coming weeks, we will organize plans to treat every unit, which will require those residents to be temporarily removed from their living space. Such an undertaking requires tremendous amounts of planning and procedure."

Other items on the agenda are air conditioning service, repair construction on certain buildings and changing locks on residents' doors.

Farmetta Bellamy lives in the ACHA's Elmood complex and said in March she hadn't seen any results just yet.

I don't know, I haven't really seen anyone," Bellamy said. "I don't ever see them out here."

Bellamy said her heat and air conditioning does not work, nor does the lock on her front door, and her bathroom sink empties into the bathtub because of a clogged sewage line.

Fellow resident Darlena Ware said she had at least two visits from ACHA workers between February and March, which she said at the time was a stark difference from responsiveness under former management.

"They're coming out here doing things, they're doing inspections, seeing what needs to be fixed, taking pictures of what needs to be fixed and what doesn't," Ware said. "I understand that this is probably gonna take some time."

Ashmore's claims

"For the brief time I was in charge there, we had several contractors lined up to begin on the hot-button items," formerly appointed ACHA Executive Director Jason Ashmore said. "For the citizens' sake, I hope things are going smoothly."

Ashmore was appointed leader of the ACHA in mid-January when the five-member ACHA board voted him in.

The board made the appointment despite being asked by HUD (the ACHA's governing body) to reconsider.

HUD officials relieved Ashmore of duty shortly after taking charge in February, and Ashmore is yet to be paid for the work he completed while affiliated with the housing authority.

Stay with Heartland News for details on the meeting scheduled for Wednesday, April 20 at 6 p.m. in Cairo.

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