BRADENTON -- All 140 exterior code violations cited at the Bradenton Village Apartments dating to 2009 were resolved as of June, but lingering questions about interior conditions and some structural concerns remain for the Bradenton Housing Authority.
BHA Executive Director Ellis Mitchell has been trying to "wrap my head around" hundreds of pages of documents associated with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Hope VI project since taking his position in November, when he called the project a "bad deal."
Mitchell has been concerned about resident complaints at the apartment complex and the lack of BHA authority to ensure resident concerns are addressed. BHA clients live in 125 of 357 units at the complex.
On Thursday, Mitchell updated the board with contract information that may give the agency more rights than initially understood. Until recently, it has
been under the assumption BHA has no authority to inspect its units because the contract gives full managerial oversight to Telesis management firm, Neighborhood Partners.
After reviewing the contract, Mitchell said he now believes BHA does have the authority to inspect its public housing units. Ousted former Executive Director Wenston DeSue hired former projects director Stephany West to do that job, according to Mitchell.
"And it never got done," he said. "Upkeep is the biggest conversation and what our rights are in relation to that."
DeSue and West were recently sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing money from the federal government.
Mitchell said he will approach the board soon to hire a part-time compliance manager devoted to monitoring Bradenton Village "to get a better feel for what's going on."
Telesis claims the cost of maintaining the public housing units has risen and more HUD funding is needed to provide adequate maintenance.
Mitchell said he wants proof.
As part of the contract, the BHA pays 95 percent of public housing rent back to Telesis, or about $33,000 a month. He told the board Telesis will be asking for more money, which the Washington, D.C.-based company has the right to do.
However, it must show why it's needed under terms of the contract.
"What they should be giving us that we aren't getting on a timely basis is an itemization statement of income and expenses," said Mitchell. "I've also asked for a management maintenance plan, which they are supposed to have, and haven't gotten that yet."
Telesis did submit a general management plan but not a management maintenance plan, which Mitchell said is different.
BHA still owns the property, but Telesis owns the buildings until 2044. At the end of the 40-year contract, Telesis will either have to pay back $16 million in loans to the BHA or give the agency the buildings.
The latter is more likely, which is why the BHA is concerned with ongoing maintenance.
"That's why our interest is to make sure the development is kept up to the best it can be," said board Chairman Napoleon Mills.
Commissioner Norma Dunwoody, a private resident at Bradenton Village, has been vocal about doing something to address complaints about interior conditions.
"We're concerned about the overall condition," said Mitchell. "We can hire someone and go inside and if we don't agree with what the property manager is reporting to us, then we can do quality control ourselves."
Mitchell analyzed what the BHA would spend managing and maintaining 125 units with an understanding BHA staff is paid more and BHA housing is much older than the 15-year-old Bradenton Village complex.
"Next month, I'll show you how much it's costing them to manage their property and we can discuss if we want to grant the request I know is coming to give them more money," said Mitchell. "If we can operate 125 units within our budget, we'll have to look closely at how they are managing the same."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.