Locust House residents urged to air complaints Manager says speaking up won't result in eviction

July 16, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The complaint that caused the building manager the most concern was that his tenants were afraid to speak their minds.

That was addressed yesterday as Robert Udoff, president of Humphrey Management Co., urged Locust House residents to air all of their complaints.

Many of the 100 residents of the federally subsidized housing complex in Westminster have been afraid that criticism would lead to eviction.

"We own this building, but it is your home," Udoff said. "No one will ever be evicted for speaking your mind."

Udoff met last week with officials from the state Department of Housing and Community Development and leaders of the tenants association.

"Communication between management and tenants needs improvement," Carol Woodson, director of asset management for the state, wrote in a letter after the meeting.

State officials were concerned with complaints about security and maintenance in the 17-year-old building, which is home to elderly and disabled residents.

"We have taken the initiative to try to help each side resolve their differences," said N. Gary Tavin, state public information officer. "We have had no problems with this building. Once we know of a problem, the manager rectifies it right away."

Udoff called a second meeting with tenants, encouraging them to speak freely.

"People here have always been afraid of eviction," said Loretta Cleary, a longtime resident.

Many others said they, too, have been reticent about mentioning maintenance problems, unannounced inspections and lapses in security, until the past few months when the tenants association took a more active role.

"I just found out in the last few months that I don't have to be afraid to speak my mind," said tenant Pearl Grumbine. "I have rights."

Udoff promised he will upgrade the security system by adding video surveillance cameras at the entrances and in hallways. He said he also will change the entry code system periodically.

Residents with respiratory problems have been particularly worried about the lack of lack air conditioning in hallways. Thermometers that monitor hall temperatures have risen as high as 86 during the past few weeks.

Udoff has had ceiling fans installed but noted that they are only moving the air, not lowering the temperatures. The state has given him an Aug. 1 deadline to find an acceptable remedy.

"I am not going to tell you we will air-condition the hallways, but we are looking at solutions," he said.

As part of his "starting-over policy," he introduced a new site manager for the building, Marci Rubin, who promised she would inspect all of the units. She moved among the tenants taking notes on their complaints.

Unless there is an emergency, the staff will not enter any apartment without notice and a work order.

Most residents said they are content with their homes and

satisfied with the new direction Udoff is taking. None saw the problems as insurmountable.

"As soon as I walked into this place, I knew this is where I wanted to live," said Doris Wilburn, who moved to Locust House in October.

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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