Some public housing residents concerned as major upgrade starts

There are mixed reactions to a major upgrade planned at the Catherine McKeen Village public housing complex in Milford. Some residents are looking forward to having new floors and bathrooms, but others said they are panicked about having to move out of their apartments for four days while the work gets started.

The Milford Rehabilitation and Housing Partnership (MRHP) is renovating all housing units at Catherine McKeen Village, located on Jepson Drive next to the Milford Senior Center, both the federal and state subsidized units, to upgrade bathrooms and replace flooring throughout, which may contain asbestos tiles and adhesive.

Anthony Vasiliou, MRHP executive director, said 65 state subsidized units and 50 federally supported units are included in the project, and many of those were built almost 50 years ago.

“They’re almost half a century old,” Vasiliou said, adding that they need upgrades, especially removal of asbestos and of any water damage that may have occurred over the years.

“Hopefully all known environmental issues will be cleaned up with this project,” he said.

The $1.2 million renovation consists of two parts: The federal units will cost about $525,000 and the state units about $674,000. The state units are being funded with $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, plus housing reserve funds accumulated over a number of years. The federal units are being paid for through a Federal Capital Fund Program.

Residents will move out of their units on a staggered schedule, one building at a time, for four days while cleaning and remediation is done inside the units, starting in August. Boxes have been provided for residents to fill with their items, and the contractor, DPM Contracting out of Southington, will move the items to a secure storage bin on the property, and then move the items back in when the work is done.

When residents return, the units will be livable, but the upgrades to the bathrooms will still have to be completed, Vasiliou said.

There are 22 buildings in the complex, which houses senior citizens and younger residents with disabilities. Vasiliou expects it will take six months or more before all the work is complete.

It’s a major project, he said, made more complicated because it is impacting people’s lives, but he said “fast doesn’t count,” that the housing authority wants to do the job right and upset tenants as little as possible.

Alderman Bryan Anderson, liaison to the MRHP board, said residents have been told they will be provided with needed services in preparation for, during and after the move. The housing authority will pay for residents to stay at the Red Roof Inn four days, and Vasiliou said he’s reached out to the Milford Senior Center to arrange transportation to the center for residents who want to go there during the day.

Senior Center Executive Director Janice Jackson said the center is “absolutely” able to help out, and will be able to bring residents from the motel to the center for a free continental breakfast, as well as for lunch and activities, and bring them back to the motel.

The city’s transit district is also lined up to help. Henry Jadach, Milford Transit District Executive Director, said his office will be provided with a list of residents displaced each week, and if those people call needing rides to doctor appointments, stores or other locations, the transit district will drive them and bill the housing authority.

Vasiliou “has gone out of his way to think of these things,” Jadach said.

But still, some residents say they are concerned.

One elderly resident who didn’t want to be named said she and other residents “feel they are being imposed on.”

“I’m 92 and I don’t have family to help me,” she said, explaining that she doesn't have the physical ability to empty closets and pack her belongings. “I can’t do it.”

One of her neighbors is paralyzed and she doesn’t know how he will handle a move.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” she said.

Richard Warner, who lives in one of the units, said some of the residents are concerned but he isn’t. He’s younger than the elderly residents who live here, and he said he has family that will help him if he needs help.

“There’s lots of anxiety with some of the older residents,” Warner said. “What I’m hoping is that the more abled can help the elderly.”

He’s not worried, and said he is looking forward to the renovations.

“That’s what keeps me going,” he said. “Thinking about the finished product.”

Another resident who just recently moved in and also did not want to state his name said having to move out for four days is an inconvenience. He hasn’t unpacked yet and will now wait to do so, but he said, “What are you going to do? They are remodeling and making it better.”

Charles Montalbano, MRHP board chairman, credited Vasiliou with putting together the funding over a number of years.

“This will be a major upgrade for them,” Montalbano said.

Montalbano said he understands that some of the elderly residents may be anxious about the move, especially if they don’t have family nearby.

But in the end, they will have “a nice new modern bathroom,” Montalbano said.

Vasiliou said the housing authority has been working with people on an individual basis and trying to accommodate their individual needs.