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.”