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HHA eyes new ways to fill director, security posts


HUDSON—Administrative changes and security professionals are among the issues that received attention at the Hudson Housing Authority meeting January 12. The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) runs the 135-unit income-restricted Bliss apartments in Hudson.

Right now the composition of HHA’s seven-member Board of Commissioners and executive director are in flux. Bliss residents re-elected the two incumbent tenant-commissioners, Anthony Bennett and Robert Davis, on December 28. But another commissioner, Marie Balle, who has been on the board since 2018, announced her resignation and said this meeting would be her last. “It’s been a pleasure and honor to serve on this board,” she added.

“It’s a hit to the board to lose you, Marie,” said Nick Zachos, the interim executive director. “You have always presented your side with positivity.”

“It was a difficult year, and you helped to soften the blow,” added Claire Cousin, vice-chair of the board, who is also a county supervisor from Hudson’s First Ward and executive director of the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson will pick Ms. Balle’s replacement.

The HHA is also continuing its search for a permanent executive director. Mr. Zachos has served in that position since last October, but he can stay only until April 1.

Commissioner Rebecca Wolff noted that last summer when the HHA callled for a new executive director through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), “too few” people responded. Mr. Zachos advocated using a search firm.

Revonda Smith, chair of the HHA Board, reported she is looking into Gans Gans & Associates, whose website describes it as a “minority and woman-owned executive recruitment and human resources consulting firm.”

The HHA is also continuing its preparations to hire a person or persons to protect the security, safety, health, and mental health needs of its tenants. Because the HHA reports to HUD, the job or jobs have to be Civil Service. And the Civil Service job that appears closest to the HHA’s envisioned job is security guard. But the Civil Service requirements for a security guard do not mention dealing with people. “It’s about guarding property rather than residents,” observed Commissioner Rebecca Borrer. “And we want a resource officer who will help people.”

Ms. Wolff suggested seeking someone with training in conflict resolution and restorative justice.

Compiling a wish list and creating a new job title and qualifications “can’t happen quickly,” Mr. Zachos said.

He acknowledged that “there are tenants who say it’s unsafe to be in the halls” of Bliss Tower at certain times of night. The building, where most HHA tenants live, has surveillance video cameras in all halls and elevators, but a live safety officer is also needed.

‘We want a resource officer who will help people.’

Commissioner Rebecca Borrer

Hudson Housing Authority

The board agreed to hire a temporary security guard, to work at Bliss for 90 days while the board works with Civil Service to develop and define positions that serve the tenants’ needs. To do this Civil Service will need to schedule a security guard test and post the job, which can list some of the HHA’s recommendations. But the HHA will be obliged to consider for the job the three top scoring applicants on the Civil Service test.

In response to a question from Hudson Second Ward Dewan Sarowar, Mr. Zachos verified that qualified candidates must also be licensed as security guards by New York State.

What if a qualified applicant is an HHA tenant? Commissioner Davis asked, wondering whether the board would be willing to hire that person.

Alderman Mohammed Rony, also from the Second Ward, said that such a person could reason, “These people know where I live. If I discipline them, there could be trouble.”

“Good point, but on the other hand, there is a benefit to knowing the residents,” said Mr. Zachos.

“It’s better to have a tenant in any position,” said Ms. Smith.

But Commissioner Bennett wondered whether hiring tenants could create a conflict of interest.

In other business:

•Mr. Zachos reported that Bliss Tower has had several “fire alarm incidents,” most brought on by maintenance activities. He thanked the Fire Department for “incredible patience with us.” One obstacle to fixing the fire alarms has been that the company which services the alarms has been through several owners and name changes and its current owners are not authorized to service the type of alarms used by the HHA. It must subcontract service to another company

•Asbestos remediation is part of compliance with the HHA’s status as a RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) facility. Mr. Zachos reported that HHA’s maintenance staff has reviewed asbestos remediation firms and he is checking with lawyers about hiring one

•Mr. Zachos reported, “all pest issues are considerably down,” though whether to keep the same pest management company is under evaluation.

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