BRADENTON -- Little progress was made in a recent meeting between Bradenton officials and Washington D.C.-based Telesis Corp. regarding structural and interior conditions of the Bradenton Village Apartments, a Department of Housing and Urban Development Hope VI project using a combination of public and private housing.
City code enforcement officials recently cleared Telesis of more than 120 exterior code violations.
Telesis founder and President Marilyn Melkonian was to meet with city officials regarding additional concerns. Planning & Community Development Director Tim Polk said the meeting occurred last week.
Melkonian, however, has missed two scheduled meetings with the Bradenton Housing Authority and has repeatedly declined comment with the Herald.
Melkonian did submit a written response titled: "Comment to an unseen story."
"Bradenton Village is a beautiful part of the wonderful city of Bradenton," Melkonian wrote. "It greatly enhanced the former neigh
borhood and will continue to do so. Over 700 residents of all ages from diverse and multicultural backgrounds create this great community and call it home. It is well designed, well built, and well maintained. Maintenance of a large neighborhood is continuous and perpetual. We will continue to work cooperatively and collaboratively with the city to address concerns in a fair and open manner."
Polk spearheaded a 2009 code enforcement effort that levied some 140 violations against the complex, which have only recently been cleared. However, those violations are not related to city concerns about structural issues and potentially failing roofs, as well as resident complaints of mold and mildew inside the units and subsequent accusations of management bullying residents who complain.
Prior to the meeting, Polk said he would discuss having Telesis allow an interior sweep of the complex to put the issues to rest, but that isn't going to happen. At least, not voluntarily.
"Interior conditions will still be complaint driven," said Polk. "Normally we wouldn't even do that in a publicly assisted housing complex, but if a resident calls our code enforcement and complains and management refuses to act, then we'll go see if it's legitimate. If we do see something wrong and something's not up to code, then we'll act."
However, city policy indicates a resident must first approach the management company before filing a code enforcement complaint. City officials have acknowledged residents have expressed fears of reprisal. The management company has acknowledged there are inside conditions, but blames residents for "self-inflicted issues" and denies all allegations of bullying.
Since the beginning of the year, the Bradenton Housing Authority has noted a resurgence of interior complaints from public housing residents, which encompass about half of the complex. The Hope VI contract signed in 2003 gives full managerial authority to the complex and BHA has no authority to assist residents.
BHA board members at a July 23 meeting openly criticized Telesis for the lack of maintenance and expressed concern at what they will inherit when the HUD contract with Telesis expires in 2053.
Former board member Rigo Rivera said Bradenton Village is on the same path as a typical "New York slumlord."
Some progress has been made in Polk's concerns about potential structural issues, but he said Telesis only agreed to hire its own "consultants" to take a closer look.
"The main thing is we need to show her there has been some deterioration to the exterior that can't be blamed on the residents," he said. "We have pictures that we showed her and she agreed to have consultants look closer at the structural and architectural issues with the buildings and to address the points we made on wear and tear."
BHA Executive Director Ellis Mitchell Jr., who brought the Bradenton Village issue to light just two months after being hired in November, calling the complex a "bad deal" for the BHA, is having the HUD 400-page contract reviewed.
"The BHA may actually have more rights than what we are aware of," he said. "But deciphering the contract has been an issue."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.