Housing director angered as HUD rejects key grant

July 27, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

A Housing Authority of Baltimore application for a $2.7 million drug-elimination grant was rejected last week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development because it was "weak" and incomplete, local HUD officials said.

The action has left Daniel P. Henson III, Housing Authority executive director, fuming and charging that the local HUD office "didn't fight for me."

Without a drug-elimination grant for this year, Mr. Henson said, the authority will find it difficult to pay for security at public housing developments, particularly at Flag House Courts in East Baltimore.

At Flag House this summer, the authority has conducted maintenance and security sweeps of the three high-rise buildings under the Extraordinary Comprehensive Housekeeping Operation (ECHO).

Yet HUD officials said the cost of security at Flag House, which is provided by a private firm, was not listed on the grant application signed by Mr. Henson and submitted April 15.

The officials also said that the application did not meet the department's criteria for awarding a grant.

In a July 21 letter to Mr. Henson, Baltimore HUD Deputy Director Larry Hatcher said the application "failed to adequately describe the extent of the drug problem in the developments, lacked evidence of outside involvement by local organizations and government . . . and lacked a self-evaluation process."

Bill Tamburrino, chief of the local HUD public housing division, cited the Housing Authority's recent administrative problems

and "below average ratings" in three previous reviews of drug elimination grants (DEG). One of those low ratings was caused by last year's unauthorized $350,000 purchase of steel security turnstiles for public housing high-rises. The turnstiles are being removed after residents complained.

Mr. Henson defended his agency, saying he tried to amend the application in May to include ECHO security costs of about $60,000 monthly at Flag House but was told that the deadline had passed.

"In this case, they acted like they were real happy to say no, like, 'Ha, ha, ha, you think you're real smart.' I don't need that," he said. "They said the reason was the rules did not allow them to consider it. I'm upset because they did not fight the rules."

Mr. Henson said he plans to appeal. Vivian Potter, a spokeswoman at HUD headquarters in Washington, said yesterday that "anything is appealable."

Unabyrd Ervin-Jones, a local HUD official, denied Mr. Henson's charge that HUD is working against the Housing Authority.

"We are fighting for and with the Housing Authority," Ms. Ervin-Jones said. "DEG is a competitive process and once the application is submitted, the Housing Authority cannot add information that would improve it. Our hands are tied. It's a federal requirement." Ms. Ervin-Jones said that the Housing Authority's application was so deficient in content that it was "not even close in the scoring process."

"The application was put together in a weak fashion," she said. "For instance, one criteria was to describe the extent of the drug problem, and they did not provide the type of drug market that exists or use statistics to back it up."

Drug elimination grants were established in 1990 to allow housing authorities to develop strategies to fight the drug problem in public housing complexes. The Baltimore Housing Authority received a $2.6 million grant in 1992.

This year, the region that covers Baltimore had $14.9 million in drug-elimination grants to be awarded to housing authorities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Mr. Henson said he hopes his appeal will be heard soon so the Baltimore Housing Authority does not lose its momentum at Flag House. He said that if the authority does not get the grant, he will have "to rob Peter to pay Paul" from his operating funds to continue cleaning up Flag House.

"I've got to figure out ways to cover the costs. I can't cut back on security," Mr. Henson said. "I've made people promises. I don't go back on my promises.

"At the local level, we're doing everything we can to eliminate the human trash and drug dealers, and then we get declined for our next grant because they say we're not doing enough.

"I think that's stupid."

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