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Directors Corner

Juanita Gibbs
Executive Director
Statment reflects the 2007 Annual Report    
It is clear that the dedication and hard work of our management and maintenance team has been marked by many successes. Additionally, the collaboration between the Benton Harbor Housing Commission’s Board of Directors, the Interim Executive Director, the management, maintenance team and the community has created a renewed sense of strength purpose and hope for our residents.

Our ultimate goals is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing and in good repair. We will continue to strive for excellence. This report attempts to capture the accomplishments during the 2007 year.

Executive Summary: State of the Commission

The Board of Commissioners has taken on an active role in providing the monitoring and oversight for setting policies which set the vision and direction of the agency. The Board now has a mixture of members who have the expertise, talent, time, energy, patience, passion, commitment and desire to serve the needs of the Benton Harbor Community.

The Commission is now providing the Board of Commissioners with standard reporting formats for operational reports on leasing, occupancy and maintenance.

Performance and Financial reports are presented to the Board on a Monthly basis.

We are still working hard to establish a resident council.

Organization and Staffing
The Organization Structure has been adjusted to improve and maximize efficiency.

In effort to improve the lines of communication the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) office, Capital Funds and Inspection offices are now located in the Central office.

Provided is the current organizational chart

The Capital Funds and Quality Control positions was combined to make one position, both positions will eventually be part time.

With the elimination of 98 units at the Whitfield Development, on Property Manager has the responsibility of the management of all public housing units.

The Personnel and payroll functions are now handled by the Executive Directors office.

A Maintenance Supervisor was hired and reported for duty on October 26, 2007 and will evaluate the skills of all maintenance staff. A training schedule will be developed based on the evaluation.

The following staff persons attended training sessions during the past year.

Commissioners Fundamentals – The Board of Commissioners, the Executive and Deputy Directors.
Uniform Physical Condition Standards – Donald Smith, Anthony Stokes and Daniel Potts.
Housing Quality Standard – Willie Mae Reed, Wendy Gunn and Barbara Hollowell
Ethics, Procurement and PHADA conference—Sheila Hill

A wage grade survey was conducted and approved by the Board of Commissioners.

Finance and Procurement
Due to the agency’s financially troubled status, the agency was under an operating threshold for the last year. No funds could be requested or expended without the approval from HUD. Because the agency has maintained a positive cash flow for past twelve months, the agency is allowed to request and expend funds without HUD approval. This approval was given via correspondence on October 29, 2007.

Currently the Executive Director reviews all invoices on a weekly basis, prepares monthly reports for the Board of Commissioners. The invoices are submitted to the Chairman of the Board along with the checks for approval for payment.

Standard Operating Procedures have been developed and approved by the Board of Commissioners. The procedures include:

A comprehensive and consistent system for documenting the approval of requisition of good.

A centralized procurement function.

Assigned specific staff responsibility for management and record keeping of procurement function.

A process for generating and properly executing purchase orders.

The agency is working with the Troubled Agency Recovery Team to develop a final financial work-out plan for cost reduction and revenue increasing activities.

Housing Management
The Benton Harbor Housing Commission has developed the internal controls required for assurance that the process of planning, organizing, directing and controlling program operations meet the agency’s objectives. The following internal controls, policies and procedures have been developed and implemented:

Vacant Unit Turnaround procedures to ensure the re-occupancy of units in a timely manner and to avoid the loss of revenue.

The waiting list is purged annually to determine the continued interest in public housing units and documentation of proper tenant selection.

The Admission and Occupancy Policy has been revised to comply with HUD regulations and the PHA Annual Plan.

Lease Enforcement has been improved with the renovation of the Buss Development and the strengthening of management practices.

Standard Operating Procedures have been developed and staff has been trained the following management activities:

Lease Enforcement
Unit Inspections
Rent Collection
Tenant Selection
Third Party Verification of Income
Annual Re-certifications
Choice of Rents
Grievance Procedures

Property Maintenance
One of the primary functions of the Benton Harbor Housing Commission is to provide safe, sanitary and desirable housing to low-income families of Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor Housing Commission’s Management and Maintenance Department is charged with the responsibility for maintaining this housing.

A Maintenance Plan that the Board of Commissioners, Executive Director, Deputy Director, and other staff have reviewed and approved, has been developed and implemented to better understand the maintenance and facilities management functions at the Benton Harbor Housing Commission. The following improvements are being implemented:

Work Order System
A work order system has been created to record the maintenance work that must be accomplished, track work assignments, track progress and completions, document materials and use, and provide a basis for monitoring effectiveness and productivity of staff.

Routine Maintenance
The routine maintenance plan is in place to track and document the time for responding to routine request Routine maintenance must be responded to in thirty days, depending on the resources required to complete the request.

Emergency Maintenance
This system is being implemented to tract and document the time it takes to respond to request that must be corrected within twenty-four hours.

Preventive Maintenance
This system schedules and documents work that is undertaken on a scheduled basis to prevent the breakdown of major equipment and the deterioration of facilities, the results of this system will:

Reduce customer requested work orders and improve customer satisfaction
Reduce repair cost
Identify required equipment replacements early
Determine if emergencies are due to lack of improper preventive maintenance

Vacancy Turnaround
The vacancy turnaround system is vital to establishing policies and procedures related to making units ready for occupancy. This system will provide the reporting mechanisms needed to track and document a unit from the time it is vacated until it is re-opened. The results of this system will:

Determine the causes of high vacancy and revenue loss
Develop protocols and build team consciousness around vacancy renovation and leasing activity
Set goals and hold employees accountable for attaining the goals
Comply with PHAS requirements

Inspections Program
The Benton Harbor Housing Commission is required to inspect every unit in its inventory every year. To accomplish this task the Benton Harbor Housing Commission’s inspection and repair process must identify all of the deficiencies that the HUD inspector might observe. These deficiencies must be corrected before the unit is inspected by HUD. The Benton Harbor Housing Commission must document the fact that all units, systems and common areas were inspected annually. The Benton Harbor Housing Commission will lose points in the PHAS scores if deficiencies are not corrected. The Benton Harbor Housing Commission also following inspections on an on-going basis:

Preventive Maintenance
Move-in/Move-out Inspections
Vacancy Preparation Inspections
Quality Control Inspections
Housekeeping Inspections
Complaint Inspections

Inventory Control
An inventory system has been developed and is currently being utilized. This system requires signatures for all supplies and materials and reporting on the work order the location and quantity used, with excess material being returned to the warehouse. The staff has received training on the inventory and understands the importance of how the warehousing and purchasing system works and to ensure the timely restocking of maintenance supplies.

In an effort to change the stigma of the public community from “crime-prone” to “crime-preventive” we have required a number of coordinated efforts. The number and types of steps varied with the severity of the problems and the specific needs of each development. In general the following actions have been taken:

Worked with the law enforcement to remove the manifestation of criminal activity. The Benton Harbor Housing Commission has set the tone of a strong working relationship with the Chief of Police and the patrol officers.
Reviewed and revised our screening policies, along with the lease and eviction policies
Effective evictions of undesirable residents. This process has involved training of management personnel to effectively build a case for and pursuit of evictions of offenders as well as how to work with the juridical resources.
The agency is working to change the environment that tolerates crime. We are trying to empower and motivate residents to take positive action against criminal activity.

Resident Service and Initiatives
The Benton Harbor Housing Commission is making special efforts to be role models to both children and adults living in the public housing units. Since the Housing Authority is the primary entity with which the residents have day-to-day, it is a unique opportunity to set good examples. To ensure that we are providing the proper climate the agency is taking the following actions:

All areas, even maintenance shops that are typically off limits to residents are clean and orderly
Office and maintenance personnel must be neatly and professionally dressed.
High standards are set for all interactions (staff-to-resident, staff-to-staff and staff to the general public).
Mutual respect must be the image projected.

Copyright 2008 Benton Harbor Housing Commission 721 Nate Wells sr Drive, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 Office: 269-927-6511