Kathy Riffert was the first resident to take the podium. She started by thanking Council member Tara Zrinski, who visited and inspected the building a few weeks ago at the request of residents. She asked the county to consider regaining control of the home.
Riffert asked about Valley Housing Development Corp., which apparently runs the facility. She indicated this firm might manage 31 buildings, and asked where Northampton County's money is going. She indicated that when she first moved there, the tenants were mostly elderly. Now it is a "mixture of nursing home, mental hospital and a group home for mentally challenged people." She also observed that police "are here three or four times a week for frivolous tenant calls."
Joanne Messinger, who lives on Seip Street but visits the Border House regularly, followed Riffert. "The office is not worth the room they take up," she complained. She was concerned specifically by how the office is treating one of the tenants, who is barred from visiting any floor except the one on which she lives. "Something's got to be done about that place, it's gone downhill."
Tenant Trudy Davis was the next speaker. She and her late husband first moved there in October 2012. She was once proud to say where she lived. "Now, things have changed. There's no longer pride in the old dirty red building on the top of the hill. I heard that description many times while riding the bus back and forth to the Palmer Mall." She listed numerous deficiencies, from red walls turned black by mold to cracked entry steps. The Border House, "once the 'Cadillac' of HUD buildings, is now a building in desperate need of repairs."
Resident Carol Kostolanci was the next to take the podium. Her complaint is that "management has opened the building to people who are not only a danger to themselves, but to every other tenant. They wander the halls in various states of undress, some are self abusive." She indicated they linger outside the apartments of other tenants or just lie on the floor. She added that management locks its doors, closes its blinds and is unresponsive.
Barbara Tinker, an 82 yo resident, said she's seen several changes in management, and the present operators are the worst. She also complained about the habit of locking the door and pulling down the shades. "That gesture alone makes us feel inferior, almost as if we are the enemy. In many ways we are treated like lower class citizens."
Batting clean-up was 91 yo Joyce Rice. "I'm the grandmother of the group," she joked. She said that when she first moved into the Border House in 2011, the office was wonderful. But she slammed the current management for the way it treats the first floor tenant who pretty much is banned from everywhere else in the building,
Executive Lamont McClure pretty much agreed with these complaints. "It's time to take our housing authority back, folks. It was a mistake to vote to give it to Lehigh County."
McClure was a member of Council when it voted to cede control of the Border House to Lehigh County Housing Authority, and was the sole member to vote No.
While McClure claimed that Northampton and Lehigh County work well together, he said the bi-county arrangements have been a failure. He indicated he is currently working on a plan to regain control of the housing authority in Northampton County. "We're going to have a housing authority again in Northampton County."
He indicate that Valley Housing should be invited to a Council Committee meeting to address resident concerns. But he cautioned that people with disabilities must be permitted to reside at Oliver Border House.
Council member Ron Heckman, who chairs the Human Services Committee, said he'd invite management to his next meeting.