AHA logo
Nagle's pay rises; progress reported on new AHA Medford St. property.

UPDATED Dec. 30: Tensions arose between the Arlington Housing Authority board and Menotomy Manor Tenants Association president at the Dec. 21 board meeting – the latest development in a yearslong push by Menotomy residents for better treatment from the AHA.

Separately, at the virtual session on Zoom, the board voted to raise the pay of the executive director -- a more than $25,000 increase -- and reported progress in establishing a new AHA property on Medford Street.

Menotomy Manor, a 179-unit low-rise family housing development built in 1952, is the oldest of the five properties operated by the AHA. The Menotomy Manor Tenants Association formed last year largely because of tenants’ desire to have a voice within the authority, as they sought improvements to their aging residence. 

At the meeting, tenants' association President Jen Hernandez expressed frustration over the AHA’s inaction and poor communication with her organization, and she sought to improve relations between the two parties. Her proposed resolution was for the AHA board to sign a memo of understanding, a binding document outlining specific terms for their handling of Menotomy’s requests going forward. 

"Since our inception [in 2021], we've been struggling with the housing authority to have them effectively communicate with us, include us or work with us according to the [Department of Housing and Community Development] regulations,” Hernandez said. “This MOU was an attempt at trying to make that happen a little easier and so that we would both be held to the terms."

Board declines to sign memo

However, AHA Board of Directors' Chair Brian Conner said the board wouldn’t sign the memo, and he wondered why the AHA’s monthly maintenance meeting that it conducts with each tenant association (including the MMTA) wasn’t achieving the desired level of communication. 

“From my experience on the board, we would never sign a document like that,” Conner said. “And I’m surprised, because we’re the only housing authority that I know of that identifies a specific time period every month to tie up the senior management team on site.”

At the Nov. 16 board meeting, Executive Director Jack Nagle noted the “real success” the authority has found holding hourlong maintenance meetings each month, which he noted was well above the DHCD’s requirement of one meeting per quarter. 

Meetings called a starting point

Hernandez said she’s grateful for those efforts to hear the association’s concerns but believes holding regular meetings is just a starting point. She wants to see increased follow-through on the issues she brings to the AHA on behalf of Menotomy Manor’s residents.

“[The monthly meetings] don’t go unappreciated or unnoticed by any means. But we’ve been recognized for about a year now, and we have almost the same agenda every month. And we should have moved on from that by now,” Hernandez said. “A lot of times when we try to communicate, or we try to get somewhere, it’s just falling flat.”

Nagle, who takes part in the monthly maintenance meetings, said he also wanted to highlight the positive strides taken by the AHA in the past year to help improve the property’s aging infrastructure. 

“There’s always room for improvement, but we’ve made some really great achievements, made some real headway in different areas,” Nagle said. “I’d like that to also be shared with the board.”

Weatherization, windows

In recent months, the AHA has begun weatherization efforts to combat the extensive flooding that has plagued Menotomy Manor in past years. Additionally, the AHA is allocating ARPA funds toward an extensive window-replacement project, which Nagle said in October is still in the design phase and “on schedule.” Last month, the board also requested $140,000 in funding for new electric stove tops in each unit to comply with federal and state regulations. 

Yet, many more issues remain to be addressed at the 70-year-old facility. Board member Fiorella Badilla, who has lived at Menotomy Manor since 2014, expressed a desire to work to find a solution between the two sides.

“This is something we can all discuss as a board,” Badilla said. “I think where [Conner] said we are going out of our way as the only housing authority that [holds regular meetings with tenant associations], it doesn’t mean there isn’t still room for improvement.”

In the short term, the board won’t sign Hernandez’s memo or agree to any next steps in writing. However, Hernandez said she will write an email to the AHA highlighting the specific issues she  believes have gone unaddressed, and the two sides will work from there to find a solution.

“I think all of us want to improve our relationships with the tenants, and they are the ones who live there, so they know what the issues are,” said board member Jo Anne Preston. “And I think we should all take this seriously, and want to move forward with it.” 

Hauser fire alarm project underway

Nagle updated the progress of the fire alarm system upgrade at the Robert Hauser Memorial Building, which officially began Monday, Dec. 19. The board initially approved an $819,000 payment at the Oct. 19 board meeting to begin work on the project, and Nagle said additional funding from the state will now also allow for sprinkler improvements.

“We added the update of the sprinklers to that project,” Nagle said. “It initially wasn’t included in the project because of funding shortfalls, but thanks to the $155,000 earmarked from Senator [Cindy] Friedman, we’ll be able to move forward with it.”

With the alarm system installations now beginning, Nagle said the AHA will be conducting community outreach to educate residents further about the project. 

“We’re going to be scheduling a meeting with the residents to ensure they have a chance to raise concerns and learn more about the project,” Nagle said. “It is going to be a little bit invasive, but obviously an extremely important update to the property.”

Director’s pay raise approved

Nagle’s pay increase to $137,806 was unanimously approved by the board; it had already been stipulated in his contract retroactive to Oct. 1. Richard Conlon, the AHA’s accountant, said the two-month delay in putting the motion up for vote was due to the state’s delay in releasing the budget guidelines.

“The state calculation [for the director’s salary] is calculated based on the number of units you had, and we took a percent of that number,” Conlon explained.

His previous salary of $112,446 was 80 percent of the DHCD salary guideline based on the AHA's relative size, and his contract stipulated an increase to 90 percent of the guideline at the beginning of the authority's fiscal year.

Nagle, who previously served as the AHA’s operations manager, first took over as executive director on an interim basis in April 2021, after longtime director John Griffin took an extended leave of absence. Nagle was named the full-time director during a special meeting on Dec. 22, 2021, and he has held the lead role since.

“You’ve done a great job this year, Jack,” Board member Nick Mitropoulos said after the motion passed. “Just wanted to say thank you for everything you’ve done. Great stuff.” 

New Medford St. property in early stages

The board unanimously agreed to approve the beginning stages of a new building on 54 Medford St., directly in front of the AHA-operated Chestnut Manor building.

“The nice thing is we already own the property,” Conner said. “We’ve already had discussions with the town, and they’ll be supportive. This is 689; this is the special-needs population.”

He is referring to a state program for public housing serving seniors, families and those with special needs. 

Conner said the AHA has $2.1 million for the project and hoped to allocate the funds to build as many units as possible.

“The funding was for four [residents], which was kind of crazy. I think we want to aim for 10 or 12, or the maximum number we can fit there,” Conner said.

If the project goes according to schedule, Conner says he hopes to begin construction by the end of 2023.

“This vote would give Jack the authority to move forward, and then they would assign a designer to come up with the design and stuff. We’re many votes away before we dig,” Conner said. “But it’s a great opportunity.”

New system for public participation at AHA meetings

To increase the accessibility and ease of public participation, the AHA is modifying its deadline to submit a request to comment at its monthly board meeting. 

Under the new protocol, Nagle will complete and publish the AHA meeting agenda on the Friday before the board meeting, which takes place the following Wednesday. Commenters will have until the following 5 p.m. Tuesday -- four full days -- to review the agenda and submit a request to speak at the public-comment portion of the meeting.

“I think this will solve this problem, but I think that’s why people have not been coming,” Preston said of the meetings’ low attendance in recent months.  

The next AHA board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. 

This news summary by YourArlington intern Matty Wasserman, a journalism student at Northeastern University, was published Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. It was updated Dec. 30, to report the pay-increase amount.

Donate button, 300pxThis reporting demonstrates your donations at work to support democracy here.YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Your contributions are tax-deductible.