Community center renovations raise concerns among Southington tenants

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SOUTHINGTON – Residents of the Pulaski Terrace housing complex, a 40-unit property owned and operated by the Southington Housing Authority, feel left in the dark about the renovations underway at their community center and the state of complaints about the roof leaks and mold.

The renovation came as a surprise to residents of 6 Carter Lane complex, who say they found the building’s doors locked when they went to use the washing machines inside. The building also serves as a drop-off point for Bread for Life food and a community gathering place before the pandemic.

“There’s a lot going on that we don’t know firsthand,” said Paula Mulherin, who has lived in Pulaski Terrace for three years. She would have liked residents to be informed of the review of renovation plans and included in the conversation.

The Housing Authority manages four complexes in town for low-income elderly and disabled people. Housing Authority director Julie A. Cossette said the Pulaski Terrace community center was closed for 10 days starting November 4 as new flooring was being installed in the area. washing machines. Residents received closure notices and said they could use the washing facilities at the city’s other three authority-owned properties.

Residents’ concerns were heightened when they were told that some office space would be moved from the housing authority’s main administrative space within its offices at 43 Academy Street to the community center building. .

Residents said the plan would have left them little space to hold gatherings after the pandemic has passed or to use the building as a shelter in the event of a power outage, as the building has a generator.

“It’s our refuge in the event of a power outage in winter,” said one resident. “… It’s not just about renting an apartment, you have elderly people who have needs.

Sharon O’Brien, chair of the authority’s board of commissioners, said the community center originally housed offices and there were proposals to move two sub-offices into the building. However, the board of directors has since decided to keep those offices on Academy Street and maintain the building as a community center once the renovations are complete. A partially constructed wall that was installed as part of the process of adding office space will be removed, O’Brien said.

Cossette said the office move was approved by the board, which gave her discretion to determine the size of the offices there. Based on feedback from residents, she said they were considering changing their offices on Academy Street instead.

City Council President Victoria Triano said she heard from many residents worrying about the community center and attended the Housing Authority meeting on Tuesday to assure residents that if they did share the their concerns to the board members, those concerns would be addressed.

“We appoint the housing commission and I have complete confidence in it. I’m sure they hear different things from residents, I’m sure they’ll respond quickly, ”she told the Record-Journal.

She said she understood that the community center would remain accessible to residents after the renovations were completed.

“I understand the other plans are in the works… the community center will remain an intact community center,” she said.

But Cossette said Triano’s appearance at the board meeting was putting undue influence on the Housing Authority’s independence from the city. Although the authority’s board of directors is appointed by the city council, with the exception of a tenant representative, it said its operations are independent of the city.

“We cannot operate with the interference of a city councilor,” she said.

Tenants’ concerns

While offices cannot be moved to Carter Lane, residents say the way the building’s temporary closure and ongoing renovations have been handled is emblematic of a lack of communication on the part of the administration of the housing authority.

“I think the community center was the tipping point,” Mulherin said.

She said residents reported issues with mold, leaky roofs and uneven walkways to a maintenance hotline, but the issues were not resolved.

The same resident who shared his concerns about losing the ability to use the community center as a shelter said a leak in his ceiling had not been resolved for eight years. When water seeped into his ceiling lights and damaged them, staff replaced them but did not fix the underlying problem. When the roof started to sag, he had to install his sheet metal screws himself.

Cossette said the authority has in-house maintenance staff, but has had to bring in licensed contractors in certain areas of work to keep aging equipment running, such as HVAC systems, plumbing and electricity.

“As the equipment ages, we really need professionals to work on it,” she said.

O’Brien said residents recently reported issues with their units that the housing authority was not previously aware of, but she believes her units are generally well maintained.

“We want to provide our residents with a very high quality of life,” she said, adding that they have an obligation beyond just providing affordable housing.

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