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Amherst Housing Authority eyes management of Hadley properties

  • Judy Roncalli, a resident of Golden Court Apartments in Hadley, speaks Wednesday about a pending agreement that could put Hadley Housing Authority properties under the management of the Amherst Housing Authority. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Judy Roncalli, a resident of Golden Court Apartments in Hadley, speaks to the Gazette on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, about a pending agreement that could put Hadley Housing Authority properties under the management of the Amherst Housing Authority. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Judy Roncalli, a resident of Golden Court Apartments in Hadley, speaks to the Gazette on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, about a pending agreement that could put Hadley Housing Authority properties under the management of the Amherst Housing Authority. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Henry North, a resident of Golden Court Apartments in Hadley, speaks Wednesday about a pending agreement that could put Hadley Housing Authority properties under the management of the Amherst Housing Authority. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Don Wright, background left, and Judy Roncalli, residents of Golden Court Apartments in Hadley, speak to the Gazette outside Roncalli's home on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, about a pending agreement that could put Hadley Housing Authority properties under the management of the Amherst Housing Authority. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Henry North, a resident of Golden Court Apartments in Hadley, speaks to the Gazette on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, about a pending agreement that could put Hadley Housing Authority properties under the management of the Amherst Housing Authority. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer
Saturday, September 07, 2019

HADLEY — The Hadley Housing Authority properties at Golden Court and on Burke Way could soon fall under the management of the Amherst Housing Authority, according to a contract that is expected to begin Oct. 1.

The Hadley Housing Authority’s elected commissioners last week agreed to sign a one-year management contract with Amherst’s agency, said Pamela Rogers, executive director of the Amherst Housing Authority. The agreement must still be approved in formal votes by the commissioners in Hadley and Amherst, as well as by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Rogers said such agreements are becoming more common for smaller entities and are recommended by the state as a way to provide better service, from maintenance and upkeep of properties to other forms of assistance to the senior citizens, families and disabled individuals who live at the sites or are housed as part of the federal Section 8 voucher program.

As part of the arrangement, Rogers will serve as executive director of the Hadley Housing Authority, just as she has for Amherst since being hired in November 2018, and for Belchertown, where she has been the executive director for several years. Her hiring in Amherst was contingent on a similar management agreement between Belchertown and Amherst.

In the months since that agreement began, tenants in Belchertown have benefited, she said. Previously, Belchertown had four employees — herself, an executive assistant and two maintenance workers. Now the staff consists of 17 people employed by the Amherst Housing Authority.

“They’re seeing more staff and more office hours,” Rogers said of those living at the Belchertown properties. “This allows the larger agency to do the day-to-day operations and have the executive director and staff. It provides so much more assistance.”

As an example of these shared resources, a tenant services coordinator in Amherst can provide advice to Belchertown and Amherst tenants on matters such as applying for housing benefits and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

What Rogers has discovered is that residents at the properties in Belchertown appreciate that they are treated the same as their peers in Amherst and are getting stepped-up service, especially with maintenance. She said Hadley residents who live at the 40 units at Golden Court and the six duplexes on Burke Way should notice this.

Since state regulations have increased, smaller housing authorities, like Hadley and Belchertown, depend on these sort of arrangements.

“Housing authorities need to be run in a fair and consistent way, and residents will have a greater say,” Rogers said.

Tenants react

Golden Court residents on Wednesday said they have heard rumors about the change. But there is uncertainty about how it will affect them.

“Amherst will do a good job here in the sense of overseeing it,” said Maggie Aldrich-McCassie, who has lived at the site for about two years and is pleased she has space to do gardening, including an area where she and six other tenants grow vegetables.

Aldrich-McCassie said Golden Court is already a good place to live, and she won’t complain about any management change as long as her apartment remains her domain.

Judy Roncalli, who has called Golden Court home for the past 15 years, said maintenance is fine on site and that she would prefer to see a change in the composition of the elected commission, observing that she and other longtime tenants have felt disrespected.

“I feel that the treatment here has amounted to elder abuse, and that won’t be fixed,” Roncalli said.

She worries, though, that even under new management, threats to remove some gardens might be carried out.

Wilfred Danylieko, chairman of the Hadley Housing Authority’s board of commissioners, did not respond to requests for comment.

Don Wright, a tenant for seven years at Golden Court, agreed with Roncalli that those who oversee the property could treat residents better.

But Henry North, a tenant for the past 11 years, said it is hard to imagine that having Amherst Housing Authority in charge would make the property any better or worse.

“To me, I don’t have an opinion because I don’t know what it entails,” North said.

Rogers said adding Hadley won’t be a problem, as she already oversees just under 800 units. These include 72 units of elderly and disabled housing in Belchertown and 220 units in Amherst, along with 415 Section 8 vouchers and 10 other voucher programs.

Mary Billion, who serves as executive director in Hadley and Granby, will become part of the Amherst staff when the management agreement goes forward.

Rogers said she gets to the Belchertown office two to three times per week and will be present on site in Hadley as often as possible. Existing staff in Hadley will get more training and expertise working with the staff in Amherst, just as the Belchertown employees have over the past year, she said. One issue Rogers will need to address is making sure there is a sensible workflow structure when Hadley comes on board.

Even with this type of agreement, the housing authorities remain independent. The board of commissioners in each community maintains oversight and sets the policies that are in place at each property, which Rogers said are often unique to each city and town.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.