GCHA putting stimulus money to necessary use PDF Print E-mail

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By Heidi Terry-Litchfield - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Workers from IWS caulk between the concrete slabs that make up the walls, floors and ceilings of resident apartments at Saratoga Tower. The work was made possible by the 2009 federal simulus program, that granted funds to housing authorities throughout the nation. (Herald Photo by Heidi Terry-Litchfield)
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Saratoga Tower was completed in 1977 by placing concrete cells together in a building concept that was common in the ’70s. The cells have caulk between each of the four-inch-thick walls that meet between each apartment unit.

That caulk has not been replaced in the 32 years the building has stood at it's Newton Drive address.

"When it rains or snows and the water is coming sideways, their are leaks in the apartments," said Nick Ragland, maintenance director for Saratoga Tower. "The caulk being replaced will help cut back on overtime hours."

He said as the rain leaked in, tenants would call the maintenance department, which would respond regardless of whether someone was on duty or not.

Replacing the caulk was one of the first three jobs to get attention after the housing authority received funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The GCHA received $124,000 in stimulus money from the $3 billion that was split among every housing authority in the country.

Brent Newman, CEO of GCHA, said the money was received in April and the GCHA immediately had a needs analysis done to see how it could best use the funds.

"After the analysis was done, the staff developed a priority list from the over $1 million on the analysis list," he said. "The Board of Commissioners held a public hearing and voted to approve items from the list."

In addition to the much-needed caulking, the board has also replaced the recirculating pumps for the heating system.

"They were original pumps," Ragland said. "One was already not working. They were well beyond their life."

The water heater has also been replaced as one of the top priorities.

"There are a long list of other items," Newman said "We will keep working down the list until we are out of money."

In addition to replacing damaged items, Ragland said they sought out more-efficient replacements that would help cut costs on upkeep and day-to-day energy.

"We would not have been able to do this work without the stimulus money," Newman said. "We have been under funded for years, which prevented the work from being done in the first place."

Funding for the projects being done falls under the authority of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"There is a backlog nationwide," Newman said. "Our property is in better condition than most."

He said there is a cash reserve for emergencies should something need replacing when there isn't funding, but once that money is exhausted, it's gone and there won't be anything for the next emergency.

GCHA stressed that, not only was it able to get fixes done to the property, but it was also able to create jobs for others.

Local contractor Barry Plumbing and Heating did the work on the pumps, and regional contractor IWS, Inc. undertook the caulking work.

Newman said the bids coming in were well under the engineers' estimates, – in one case, 50 percent less than the estimate – thus allowing the GCHA to work further down the list.