By Donald Wittkowski
The Ocean City Housing Authority on Tuesday approved plans for $250,000 worth of improvements that will spruce up its Bay View Manor senior-citizen complex over the next three years.
Plans call for cleaning the exterior, painting the units and improving the hallway lighting for the five-story building at Sixth Street and West Avenue. Bay View Manor’s floors, elevator and landscaping will also be upgraded.
In addition, the two stairway towers will be repainted for the first time since Bay View Manor was built in the 1970s, housing authority officials said. The new paint will eliminate the musty odor that permeates the stairways now.
“It will be better living conditions,” Jacqueline Jones, the authority’s executive director, said of the overall benefits of the project to the residents.
The facelift for Bay View Manor is the second major project planned by the housing authority as it continues to recover from an embezzlement scandal last year involving its former executive director.
Last week, the authority received approval from the Ocean City Planning Board to develop a new $4.2 million senior-citizen housing project that will replace its flood-prone Pecks Beach Village housing site on Fourth Street.
The new two-story building will be constructed on what is now a parking lot adjacent to Bay View Manor. Construction is expected to start in 2019 and be completed by 2020. The 20-unit project will be funded by a Hurricane Sandy recovery grant.
The new project will be named in honor of former housing authority Commissioner Edmond C. Speitel Sr., who died in September.
Speitel, who was chairman of the authority’s finance and redevelopment committees, helped to oversee the project from the conceptual phase. He also helped guide the authority through a tumultuous phase last year after the agency’s former executive director, Alesia Watson, pleaded guilty to embezzling federal housing funds and was sentenced to three years of probation.
After Watson was ousted by the board of commissioners, Jones was brought in as the new executive director as part of a series of management and financial reforms designed to strengthen the agency.
The authority uses federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide affordable housing for low-income senior citizens, families and the disabled at its Pecks Beach Village and Bay View Manor facilities.
During the authority’s board meeting Tuesday, Jones reported that the agency has enough reserve funds on hand to make it through a possible government shutdown in Washington, D.C. A shutdown would temporarily turn off the spigot for federal subsidies from HUD. Each month, the housing authority receives $27,000 in HUD subsidies to help fund its operations, officials said.
The government shutdown looms Friday unless President Donald Trump and Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House can reach agreement on the politically volatile issue of immigration.
Jones, saying she believes there will be a shutdown, assured the board members that the authority has enough savings on hand to carry it through the next few months if the federal subsidies from HUD dry up.
“We have money to operate for a few months,” she said.
She added, “We’re OK, so far.”
In an interview after the board meeting, Jones estimated the authority has enough reserve funds to last for four months. She strongly doubted, if a government shutdown does occur, that it would drag on longer than four months.
“Four months, that would be outrageous,” she said.
Jones noted that the housing authority has set aside reserve funds to protect it from emergencies, such as a government shutdown
“It’s always smart to have some savings because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said.