Ada Lane tenants air complaints

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Mon., Oct. 28, 2013
The Manchester Housing Authority Board of Commissioners heard complaints from tenants at their October monthly meeting. Pictured left to right:  Executive Directory Patrick Barder, Commissioner Paul Rubin, Chairman Josh Howroyd, Vice Chair Robert Shanbaum, and Commissioner Carol Shanley. (Commissioner Flora Jiminez was absent.) Photos by Annie Gentile.
The Manchester Housing Authority Board of Commissioners heard complaints from tenants at their October monthly meeting. Pictured left to right: Executive Directory Patrick Barder, Commissioner Paul Rubin, Chairman Josh Howroyd, Vice Chair Robert Shanbaum, and Commissioner Carol Shanley. (Commissioner Flora Jiminez was absent.) Photos by Annie Gentile.

More than 50 tenants of Ada Lane Congregate, their family members and friends presented a litany of grievances to the Manchester Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners at its Oct. 16  meeting. The target of many of the complaints was the authority’s executive director, Patrick Barder, whose contract will be expiring at the end of the year.

Tenants complained about the removal of bushes and other plantings without warning, heating and air-conditioning problems, mold issues, water in basements, and safety issues in the laundry area. Several accused Barder of harassment and intimidation in his dealings with the elderly and disabled.

“[Barder] uses bully tactics, and it’s not going to be tolerated,” said Susanne Lajoie, daughter of an Ada Lane resident. “He wants to step away from maintenance by putting up concrete everywhere.” The facility’s landcaping means a great deal to those who don’t have the ability to get out or travel, she said.

Resident Priscilla Dorsey complained about improperly repaired roofs, water in the basement, overflowing toilets, and septic problems, as well as difficulty dealing with Barder when registering complaints. “You’re going to have to learn some kind of tact with people,” she said.

Some of the most egregious complaints, however, were directed at fellow residents. Residents brought up the urgent need to deal appropriately with a tenant on oxygen who continues to smoke, and with others who call the fire department to avoid paying a fee when they accidentally lock themselves out of their apartments.

In contrast, resident Janet Matheny expressed appreciation to Barder for spending the night at their complex last year after a bad storm, walking the halls and regularly checking in on people. Marty Baser, another resident, praised the Housing Authority staff for quickly responding to and dealing with a recent disruptive visitor to the complex.

Mayor Leo Diana, who along with Deputy Mayor Jay Moran and several board directors attended the meeting, suggested a mediation process for problems before they get to the commissioner level. “There should be a process to address these issues,” he said.

Vice Chair Robert Shanbaum said during a break in the meeting that Barder initiated landscaping work early in his tenure without first notifying and involving the tenants. “That was a mistake and it got him off on the wrong foot,” he said.

Commissioner Paul Rubin suggested Barder talk with tenants before any work is done to lessen any anxiety. Shanbaum agreed, saying it would have been more meaningful if Barder had spoken to residents ahead of time.

Shanbaum also took Barder to task for a complaint from a housing authority employee, who said her supervisor instructed her not to speak at the meeting under threat of losing her job.  “It’s the mere fact that she was told she could not speak that I object to,” he said.  He said he also received reports from tenants  that they were threatened with eviction if they complained.

Barder said he would issue a memo to all employees indicating that they are allowed to speak at the meetings.


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