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City officials to discuss housing inspection bills; Council, authority to decide who will cover costs at public complexes


Last month -- facing complaints from public housing residents about poor living conditions -- Annapolis' mayor and eight aldermen proposed authorizing the city's Department of Public Works to inspect the Housing Authority's 10 complexes.

But they have not decided who will foot the bill for inspections and repairs. "We don't have money for that," Mayor Dean L. Johnson said.

To determine where the money will come from, the council will hold a work session at 6 p.m. today with officials from the city's housing authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The session is open to the public, but the council will not be taking public comments.

The mayor and aldermen introduced a resolution -- a duplicate of one that failed three years ago -- at a meeting March 13 that would authorize the city to inspect the 1,100 units of public housing in Annapolis at the authority's expense, as of July 1. On average, inspections cost $50 a unit.

Housing officials have said the authority is required by HUD to do its own inspections. P. Holden Croslan, housing authority director, said paying for both inspections would strain the housing authority's overall operating budget.

Without more funding, Johnson warned, the housing authority cannot guarantee it will make the needed repairs if city inspectors find a unit unsuitable. Although the city can condemn the building, Johnson said, many residents would have nowhere to go.

The city condemned the Eastport Community Center in late November, and it has not been repaired by the authority.

Alderman Herbert H. McMillan said he may suggest inspecting a portion of the units each year, rather than every unit annually.

The Ward Five Republican said housing authority officials plan to explain at the work session how the agency operates, which may help both sides.

"It's important for all the aldermen to get an idea of how public housing works in Annapolis," McMillan said. "I think it's a good way to open a line of communication."

The resolution, which could be voted on May 8, came after the mayor and several aldermen took a tour of Obery Court/College Creek Terrace early last month. After seeing a few apartments, the officials declared that living conditions needed to be improved in some of the 164 units at the development.

The tour, conducted by Robert Eades, vice president of the Obery Court tenant council, was part of an effort by community activists and residents to improve conditions in some of the country's oldest public housing. Eades has sent petitions to the housing authority demanding better, quicker repairs, and between 50 to 250 people have attended meetings, rallies and public hearings.

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