Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Housing authority decision delayed


November 27, 2019

File photo

The office for the Tucumcari Housing Authority is shown. The Tucumcari Housing Authority board last week delayed a decision on whether to turn over the management of the city's public housing to federal government or to keep it local.

The Tucumcari Housing Authority board Thursday delayed a decision on whether to turn over the management of the city's public housing to federal Housing and Urban Development regional authority or to keep it local.

The board, which consists of the Tucumcari City Commission and Timothy Durkin, a public housing resident, decided to table the matter Thursday to weigh pros and cons of the move a little longer.

Board members agreed they needed more time to take into account new information that had come to light Wednesday in a letter from HUD officials and a telephone conversation between a federal regional housing official and Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield, city manager Britt Lusk and Tucumcari Housing Authority manager Vicki Riddle.

The letter, Lusk said, "gives quite a bit of information about what we can and cannot do."

Riddle added the letter gives the THA board a choice of "thanks or no thanks" on transferring control.

At stake is control over $800,000 per year in federal subsidies for residents of THA housing, regional officials said.

Thursday's discussion was balanced between both sides of the issue, which began Aug. 22 when HUD officials told the board the HUD regional authority may have to take over management of the Tucumcari Housing Authority because it had failed for three years to maintain a 98 percent occupancy rate.

On Thursday, District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya came down firmly on the side of retaining local control of the housing authority based, he said, on his experience in dealing with regional authorities in other areas.

"They don't return calls," he said. "Then they say they'll be in your area in a few days" when an immediate decision is needed.

"The turnaround is very poor," he said.

District 5 Commissioner Todd Duplantis expressed doubt regional authorities would be responsive to needs for repairs and special needs.

"The complaints will still be coming to us," he said, "and we won't be able to do anything about it."

Duplantis said he remembered at least four times THA went "above and beyond" to assist public housing residents who required decisions to be made by local authorities based on the situation.

Moya said local authorities are willing to work with residents on payment schedules when they experience financial difficulties.

Under questioning from Duplantis, Riddle said she was not in favor of the regional solution. In August, she said she was undecided.

While he said he was neutral on the subject, Lusk listed some advantages of turning THA's management to federal regional authority.

Riddle and THA's other employees would keep their jobs, he said, and Riddle would "have some administrative tasks lifted from her shoulders."

Under regional authority, he said, the local employees would likely receive raises of at least 3 percent.

"The city can't handle that," he said.

On the other hand, he said, Riddle is "passionate" about doing her job and does it "from her heart."

In addition, he said Thursday, as he did in August, the 98 percent occupancy rate requirement was one a small, 90-unit housing authority like Tucumcari's would be nearly impossible to keep up.

If even two units go unoccupied, he said, the THA misses its mark.

If the housing authority board decides to retain local control and fails to meet the occupancy standard, "they'll take it over anyway," he said.

District 4 Commissioner Chris Arias asked how other local housing authorities in the state that have been taken over by HUD regional authorities were faring.

Riddle said most of the agencies HUD had taken over had "much more serious issues than we have" when HUD took over their management.

If control is transferred, an HUD regional office in Roswell that covers Quay County as well as Chaves, De Baca, Eddy, Guadalupe, Harding, Lea, Lincoln, Otero, Roosevelt, Union and Curry counties would manage THA.


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