Like many housing authorities in the U.S., the Salem Housing Authority (SHA) has been awarded money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). According to Rhonda Weaver, the housing executive director and secretary, this could mean a cooler summer for SHA residents.
The SHA has 50 units (houses) they maintain and lease. While they receive government money for operational expenses each year, it is not always enough to take care of things above and beyond maintenance.
About five years ago, the SHA started replacing the heaters in the units due to their inefficiency, but to date, they have only been able to replace 29 of the 50 due to the expense.
Previous to this change, each unit had a heater and a window unit air conditioner which according to Weaver, was not efficient at all. She said in the summer the window unit did not cool the larger units thoroughly, and there was a similar problem with the heaters in the winter.
When SHA began the process of switching out the old heaters for new central heat and air they started with the three bedroom units first due to their size. After the three bedroom units were complete they started replacing the heaters that worked poorly or not at all.
Weaver said she is hoping that with the grant money from the ARRA the SHA will be able to replace the remaining 21 heaters. The only stipulation that comes with replacing the heaters with the grant money is that they have to have an Energy Star rating.
The next step will be to remove all of the air conditioner units. When they were installed, a window was removed from each unit, so taking them out will involve putting in new windows. Each of the 50 units will have to have a new window installed where the air conditioner is. Weaver said she is hoping there is enough money in the grant to at least start this process, as well.
The SHA is on the high performance list as far as government housing goes. They did not receive the ARRA money because they are troubled. Out of their 50 units there are only two that are currently unoccupied. The two units that are currently empty will be filled as soon as they are cleaned and repainted for new tenants.
The SHA also received a donation of $500 from the Modern Woodmen in which they did some refreshing on their outdoor picnic area.
The common area next to the office has a large gazebo for the residents to enjoy during nice weather, but over the years the picnic tables in the gazebo and a few other things had become worn. With the money from Modern Woodmen the SHA painted the ceiling of the gazebo and installed a ceiling fan. They also replaced some of the rotting wood on the picnic tables and spruced them up.
Weaver said the SHA is going to match the $500 donation and do some landscaping for the residents to enjoy. "We try to do what we can to help get people out of their homes," she said. Weaver said there are several elderly residents that could use the fresh air and scenery.
The landscaping project will come soon after the finishing of storm debris clean-up. Weaver said, like everywhere else, the SHA had several damaged trees. Three of the housing units were damaged in the ice storm, but have since been repaired, and she said she is hoping the rest of the debris will be hauled off in the next week.
Randy Robinson, the SHA maintenance supervisor recently received a certificate for his services.
Robinson has been employed by the SHA for 25 years, taking care of everything from leaky sinks to fallen trees. The National Association of Housing Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) presented Robinson with a certificate of appreciation for his 25 years of dedicated service.
Anyone who would like to know what is going on at SHA is welcome to attend their monthly board meetings which are held at the SHA business office the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m., unless otherwise announced. The only exception to this is every fourth month the board meets at South Fork Cafe at 5:30 p.m.
The SHA board is made up of five members: Sheila Hickinbotham, chair; Jan Blue, vice chair; Dowl Godwin, Jason Miller and Kathy Smith. These board members can also be contacted with any questions about the housing authority.