Feds To Inspect Housing Authority Units

By SCOTT JACKSON and KRIS KALABOKAS

Federal officials will inspect Quincy Housing Authority units in August in the wake of a state report that identified widespread maintenance issues.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will likely begin the inspections in early August. Six-hundred fifty public housing units within the city receive federal funding, though its unknown exactly how many will be inspected.

HUD’s decision to inspect the units came nearly three months after the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development released a report detailing numerous issues in QHA’s 930 state-aided units.  The April 30 report identified major issues including a leaking sprinkler system at Tobin Towers, mold/mildew growth in certain inspected units, units with inoperable or removed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and numerous trip hazards and inoperable lights.

Following the state report, QHA tenants complained of long overdue maintenance problems in their residences at public meetings.  Rhonda Siciliano, the public affairs officer at HUD’s New England office in Boston, said the department opted to inspect the units in light of the report and subsequent meetings.

“Based on that information we decided to go out and do an assessment of the properties,” she explained.

On Monday, Quincy Housing Authority Executive Director James Lydon said he had meeting scheduled with Marilyn O’Sullivan, HUD’s director of public housing for the New England region, on Tuesday morning. Lydon welcomed the upcoming federal inspections, noting they would be more thorough and would be done better than those from any outside consulting firm.

“The work is being done with a lot of legitimacy,” he said.

Lydon placed David Ferris, QHA’s maintenance director, on paid administrative leave as a result of the DHCD report and the response at public meetings that followed. Crown Colony based-law firm Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane is currently overseeing an investigation into the maintenance issues, which could result in Ferris’ termination once completed.

“We’re doing a complete overhaul of the maintenance system,” Lydon said.

The Housing Authority is also in need of a new finance director. The deadline to submit resumes for that post passed Tuesday.

The federal department has performed inspections of several Quincy properties in recent years, according to Siciliano. HUD’s 1-100 point grading scale includes up to 40 points for the physical condition of a building, up to 25 for the financial assessment, up to 25 points for management assessment, and up to 10 percent for the capital fund assessment.  Overall grades between 60 and 89 are considered standard; any score higher than 90 is considered high.

Pagnano Towers on Curtis Avenue was last inspected in March 2013. HUD gave the building an overall score of 47 out of 100 and 18.8 out of 40 for the physical assessment of the building. The report found one or more non-life threating health and safety deficiencies.

An inspection at the Riverview development in Germantown was conducted in February 2013. The development was given an overall score of 65 out of 100 and 26 out of 40 for the physical assessment. A smoke detector in need of repair was identified during the inspection.

At O’Brien Towers in Germantown, HUD performed inspections between August 2011 and October 2012.  The report gave the building an overall score of 87 and a score on the physical assessment of 34.8. The report found one or more non-life threating health and safety deficiencies.

HUD inspected the Drohan Apartments on Copeland Street in West Quincy between August 2011 and October 2012. Inspectors gave the building an overall score of 93 and score on the physical assessment of 37.2. One or more non-life threating health and safety deficiencies were identified during the inspection.

In addition to the planned inspections, federal officials have been working with the Housing Authority since June to restore elevator service at Pagnano Towers and O’Brien Towers. Both buildings have been down one elevator since the winter. Elevator service could be restored at Pagnano Towers by the end of this week and at O’Brien Towers by the end of next week, Siciliano explained.

“It was brought to our attention last month that two buildings had issues with elevators,” she said. “We’ve been working with the Housing Authority to get those issues resolved.”

O’Brien Towers has also been without a hot water heater for three weeks. The Housing Authority will spend $24,000 to fix the system there, but it will be 4-6 weeks before repair work can be done as a coil needs to be custom built. A temporary heater is being used in the interim.

“Unfortunately the hot water heater is not a model that’s made anymore,” Lydon explained. “Maintenance found the problem. I never had any residents complain to me.”

Lydon, a former planning director in Quincy, has been in charge of the Housing Authority for just over a year and has two years remaining on his contract. He is unsure of whether or not he would continue on with the embattled housing agency, but wants people to know he has done all he could to correct the problems encountered.

“I want to get these problems solved,” Lydon said. “I want to get us back on our feet.”

 

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Gas Prices Fall Another Four Cents

Gasoline prices in Massachusetts have fallen another four cents per gallon over the last week, and are down 12 cents in just the last month, good news for families heading out on summer driving vacations, according to AAA Southern New England.

AAA’s July 28th survey of prices in Massachusetts found self-serve, regular unleaded averaging $3.58 per gallon, down four cents from last week. The current price is six cents more than the national average for self serve unleaded of $3.52. A year ago at this time the Massachusetts average price was 13 cents higher at $3.71.

“Driving vacations to destinations near and far are always popular with New Englanders, but never more so than during the summer,” said Mary Maguire, AAA Southern New England Director of Public and Legislative Affairs.  “Lower gas prices make those trips more enjoyable and give travelers more money to spend at restaurants and attractions.”

The range in prices in the latest AAA survey for unleaded regular is 48 cents, from a low of $3.41 to a high of $3.89. AAA advises motorists to shop around for the best prices in their area, and to make sure they and their passengers buckle up — every trip-every time.

Today’s local gas prices and their ranges are as follows:

Self Serve                                                Grade

$3.589 ($3.419-$3.899)                                    Regular Unleaded

$3.769 ($3.519-$4.099)                                    Midgrade Unleaded

$3.899 ($3.619-$4.399)                                    Premium Unleaded

$3.929 ($3.769-$4.399)                                    Diesel

Find the most up-to-date local gas prices with the AAA Fuel Finder by logging onto AAA.com and clicking on Gas Saving Tips & Tools. AAA members can also obtain a copy of the Gas Watcher’s Guide at their local AAA Southern New England office.

AAA Fuel Saving Tip of the Week

Accelerate smoothly and brake gradually. It’s safer, uses less gas, and reduces brake wear.

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Lottery Posts $971 Million In Net Profit

The Massachusetts State Lottery ended its fiscal year with an estimated $971 million in profit, $34 million higher than what was anticipated in the original FY14 state budget.

With $4.861 billion in transactions, the Lottery achieved a record-setting year in terms of sales, and the resulting profit is second only to the $983 million that the Lottery generated in FY12.  Lottery net profit is the single largest source of unrestricted local aid to the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns, said Treasurer Steven Grossman, who as Treasurer serves as Chairman of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission.

“The dramatic profit increases that the Lottery has produced over the last three years have been realized through innovation, efficiencies and an outstanding management team,” Grossman said.

The Lottery’s fiscal year commenced on July 1, 2013 and ended June 30, 2014.  Sales of $4.861 billion topped the previous record of $4.850 billion set last year by $11 million, marking the third consecutive year of record-setting sales. Over the last three fiscal years, Lottery sales have totaled $14.453 billion, and profits $2.912 billion.

Compared to FY11, sales for FY14 are up 9.8 percent ($433.4 million) and profits are up 9.5 percent ($84.0 million).  This growth has been accomplished with greater operational efficiencies, including a reduction from 406 to 394 full-time employees through attrition in that span.  Further demonstrating the efficiency of operations, the Lottery spent an estimated $2.1 million less than it budgeted for administrative costs in FY14, money that was directly applied to the overall profit.  The Lottery’s administrative costs remained at approximately 2 percent of overall revenues, the lowest of any U.S. lottery.

Grossman also pointed to enhanced marketing and continued evaluation and revamping of the game offerings as contributors to the Lottery’s three most successful years.  Most recently, after considerable analysis, the Lottery introduced its first $30 instant ticket, “World Class Millions,” which helped fuel unprecedented levels of overall instant ticket sales in the weeks following its April launch.  The momentum has continued into the beginning of FY15, with total gross sales of all Lottery products up 5.6 percent from FY14 over the first three weeks of July.

The Lottery awarded $3.515 billion in prizes in FY14, second only to the $3.523 billion awarded last fiscal year.  Prize payouts for a given year can fluctuate based on the schedule or rate at which players cash in their prizes.  With 72.3 percent of all revenue returned to players in the form of winnings in FY14, the Massachusetts Lottery has the highest payout percentage of any lottery in the country.  Meanwhile, Lottery retailers earned over $277 million in retailer commissions and bonuses in FY14, topping the mark of $276 million set last fiscal year.

While the FY14 figures have not been formally audited, the Lottery does not expect them to change substantially once that annual review process is complete.  Lottery officials anticipate completing the finalized financial statement of operations in early September.

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Melissa Horr Pond Recognized For Leadership

Assistant Planner, Melissa Horr Pond holds up page 43 of the June issue of Cape & Plymouth Business Magazine with her photo and bio as part of the 40 under 40 feature and Honoree name tag at the June 26th at The Cape Codder Resort & Spa, Hyannis

Assistant Planner, Melissa Horr Pond holds up page 43 of the June issue of Cape & Plymouth Business Magazine with her photo and bio as part of the 40 under 40 feature and Honoree name tag at the June 26th at The Cape Codder Resort & Spa, Hyannis

Melissa Horr Pond, Assistant Planner in the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development, has been recognized for her outstanding leadership in the region by Cape & Plymouth Business Magazine.

Pond, age 26, holds a Master’s Degree from Northeastern University. She was recently appointed to the South Shore Workforce Investment Board Youth Council and the Commonwealth’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education STEM Advisory Council.

Cape & Plymouth Business’ 40 Under 40 Awards spotlight the region’s top young business leaders who excel in their industry and show leadership. This program honors distinguished businesspeople under the age of 40 who have made a mark in our region at an extraordinarily young age.

Now in its fifth year, working in conjunction with the Cape Cod Young Professionals and South Shore Young Professionals, 250 nominees were culled down to the 40 individuals who best exemplified an entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to community service and potential to positively contribute to the future of our region.

Pond’s accomplishments for the City include executing a social media strategy for community resource sharing; transforming the Department’s “technical assistance workshops” into an opportunity for region-wide social impact information exchange; and increasing region-wide volunteerism through organizational readiness workshops, community service fairs, and social media.

The honor included a feature in the June issue of the magazine and a laser imprinted glass paperweight given at the June 26th award ceremony at The Cape Codder Resort & Spa, Hyannis.

Upon accepting the award, Ms. Pond thanked her husband in attendance, Benjamin Pond, for understanding how important her career is to her.

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Local Social Security Offices To Continue Benefit Letters

The Social Security Administration announces local Social Security offices will continue to provide benefit verification letters until further notice.

“We appreciate the feedback from members of Congress, our community stakeholders and agency partners. We want to ensure that we meet the needs of our customers in a way that is convenient for them and also cost-effective and secure for all,” Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said. “I believe that government agencies can work closer together to assist our mutual customers.”

Over the last few years, Social Security has invested in technology that allows most government agencies and many other organizations to verify their clients’ Social Security benefits electronically without requiring them to visit a local Social Security office.

“We recognize that some members of the public may require in-person assistance and we will have a presence in local communities,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “We also want to ensure that the public is aware that they can access many of our services without making a trip to a local field office.”

Members of the public with Internet access can obtain benefit verification information by creating a my Social Security account atwww.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

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