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October 20, 2021 Regular Board Meeting Minutes

I. Regular Meeting
Chairman James Cloar called the regular meeting of the Tampa Housing Authority Board of Commissioners to order at 8:43 a.m. Other Board members present were Parker Homans, Sul Hemani, Ben Dachepalli, and legal counsel Ricardo Gilmore. Commissioner Billi Johnson-Griffin participated in this meeting virtually. Commissioners Lorena Hardwick and Bemetra Salter Liggins were not present and were not available to participate virtually. 

The Chair began by asking everyone for a moment of silent prayer and/or personal meditation; those in attendance were also asked to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance; recital of the agency's mission statement followed.  

II. Minutes
A motion to approve the Minutes of the regular Board meeting of July 21, 2021 was made by Commissioner Dachepalli and seconded by Commissioner Hemani:

Commissioner Homans - Present
Commissioner Cloar - Yes
Commissioner Hemani - Yes
Commissioner Johnson-Griffin - Present
Commissioner Dachepalli - Yes 

III. Public Forum (3 minutes limit allotted per speaker)

  • None to come before this forum.

IV. Public Response to July Board Meeting Public Forum
The Director of Asset Management, Mr. Lorenzo Bryant addressed the Board regarding public forum speakers from last month's Board meeting. Mr. Bryant and his staff physically went to the units referenced by some of the speakers, adding that he and his staff took senior residents' complaints very seriously. Owner Operator of Stephenson & Moore, Mr. Ken Stephenson was introduced by the director and addressed the Board virtually. Additionally, a four-page written response by Mr. Stephenson was provided to Commissioners. 

Attorney Ricardo Gilmore asked what reasons the residents gave for not allowing pest control maintenance. Mr. Stephenson stated that "most of the time they don't want us to see the condition of the unit, it's either housekeeping or clutter," adding that the unit will usually have "signs of roach activity." The attorney also asked, and Mr. Stephenson responded "absolutely," if there were lease provisions or house rules regarding housekeeping. 

Commissioner Dachepalli appreciated the response and requested to see the inspections reports conducted by third party independent inspectors; he thought it helpful for himself as a Board member, and the residents that spoke in July's Board meeting.

Mr. Bryant reflected on his department's response time reiterating that he also inspected the units. During a vaccination event he was approached by residents and immediately proceeded to see the units. The director saw about six units at the time and talked to the residents residing those units; this took place before the July's Board meeting.

In response to Commissioner Dachepalli, Mr. Stephenson stated that there is no recommended temperature for the air conditioners, it depends on the unit, its location, and other factors, in general 76 degrees was advised; he also addressed the claim that residents had been mistreated by management staff, stating that his staff's communications with residents were recorded adding that "they absolutely would not treat a resident any other way than they would want to be treated themselves." 

While responding to Commissioner Johnson-Griffin, President/CEO Mr. Jerome Ryans stated that River Pines was an independent adult community. The CEO added that more frequent meetings and inspections will solve many of the issues addressed in the response to July's public forum.  

V. Employees of the Month

  • Administration - Jason Cruz Ayala

VI. Special Recognition (Geraldine Barnes Award)

  • Recipient - Juan Batista

VII. Resolutions
The Director of Human Resources, Mr. Kenneth Christie presented resolution 2020-4201. Attorney Gilmore added that decisions needed to be made regarding what was in the best interest of the safety not only staff but also the people that the agency serves. The potential to go to a mandatory vaccination program involves some steps and in communications with Mr. Christie about those steps to first encourage people to become vaccinated. Thereafter it went to mandatory, allowable by EEOC standards, as well as CDC and OSHA guidelines. 

  • 2021-4201: A resolution approving the adoption of a vaccination policy. 

A motion was made by Commissioner Dachepalli and seconded by Commissioner Hemani: 

Commissioner Homans - Yes
Commissioner Cloar - Yes
Commissioner Hemani - Yes
Commissioner Johnson-Griffin - Yes
Commissioner Dachepalli - Yes 

The Director of Real Estate Development, Mr. David Iloanya presented resolution 2020-4202. A recommendation to amend this resolution by Commissioner Dachepalli referred to the resolution page.

  • 2021-4202: A resolution approving the award of a construction contract to Ducon Construction for the reconstruction of an existing warehouse on Main Street. 

A motion was made by Commissioner Dachepalli and seconded by Commissioner Johnson-Griffin: 

Commissioner Homans - Yes
Commissioner Cloar - Yes
Commissioner Hemani - Yes
Commissioner Johnson-Griffin - Yes
Commissioner Dachepalli - Yes 

VIII. President/CEO's Report

Finance and Related Entities
The Sr. VP/CFO, Ms. Susi Begazo-McGourty stated that staff continued with their goal to convert the entire THA portfolio into Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) and are currently working on two sections. The first section was Belmont I and II, adding 549 units of which 295 will be RAD. The second section was the RAD properties of the Canopy adding 96 units to RAD.

Staff was also working on the Mary Bethune Apartments conversion to permanent financing, this is the second property coming online at the West River redevelopment.

The CFO's report summary was displayed for Commissioners during the meeting and included HCV CARES ACT Funds Impact; THA was awarded $3.2 million in CARES ACT funding for COVID expenses and was working to create a safe and healthy environment. 

Operations and Real Estate Development
The Sr. VP/COO, Mr. Leroy Moore began his report with Encore Tampa, the Legacy and the Independent were well under construction; their marketing campaign was underway linking to the Encore Tampa website, all market-rate units, totaling over 500 units. The COO mentioned changes with parking along Central Avenue within Encore that the City will make incurring a two-hour maximum parking.

Commissioner Cloar brought the Tampa Magazine featuring Meacham Urban Farm, said Mr. Moore. 

West River Tower 1 had a few families moved in, Tower 2 was nearing certificate of occupancy issued, Tower 3 will be CO as well by the end of September. Discussions had been taking place regarding a grand opening celebration of all three towers for late September or early October. Staff was also preparing for final permanent financing closing of the Mary Bethune building. The COO also announced that Eve's at West River was the first retail tenant on the ground floor of the Renaissance building, anticipating a May 2022 buildout completion; the restaurant will be owned and managed by Chef Eric, owner of Eve's Catering.

Robles Park Village was scheduled to have its first resident informational virtual meeting on August 19th, the meetings will take place every other Thursday. Actual relocation meetings were estimated to begin in two months. After relocation and demolition of the site, vertical construction will start by possibly later in 2024.

Lastly, the appraisal for the properties on Lake and Central was for $756,000 and provided removal of the tenant; a closing will take place by end of August. 

The Director of Human Resources, Mr. Kenneth Christie stated that as of August 2nd the housing authority made it a requirement for all staff to be vaccinated. The agency continues to operate at Stage 2 of the Business Continuity Plan and as of August 9th all staff had returned to work, at their offices. Necessary steps had been taken to safely operate the agency and was cognoscente of the threats post by the COVID-19 threats. The agency vaccine mandate resulted in a turnover of staff. Of the 223 employees, the agency lost 12 that did not meet the mandate requirements.

At approximately a week after classes began, officials with Hillsborough County Public Schools said that 5,599 students and 36 employees were in isolation or quarantined.  

The Delta variant had spread across the State of Florida and the US Dept. of Health and Human Services reported that about 15,600 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida, on Monday. Like all other agencies, THA was also dealing with the shifting challenges of managing the unpredictability of the absences of personnel due to the pandemic. This includes staff members that have the virus or were in contact with an infected person or may need to quarantine. Some staff members may be affected their child may have to return home because of the virus impact on the school system.

The agency's contact tracers continue to do the careful analysis needed on all reported cases. They are updated on the CDC guidelines and based on their training make the best recommendations available for us to safely operate.

Finally, the agency has approved flexible work time policy and telecommuting policy which we will use accordingly to address the needs of our operation. The agency has also moved to mandate the wearing of masks for all vaccinated and unvaccinated personnel.  

In response to questions from Chairman Cloar, Mr. Christie responded that there had been one senior level employee included in those terminated. In anticipation of the various vacancies, all positions were advertised with great response as opposed to having a job fair with pandemic risks.

Chairman Cloar added that the School District's number of quarantined or isolated students was up to 8,000 and the School Board was meeting on the day of this meeting to consider a mask mandate. The Chair also asked if the agency had considered the implications the mask mandate would cause, if enforced.

Mr. Christie responded that the agency had tried to be as proactive as possible with our telecommuting policy and flex time. He reiterated that all staff was back at work as of August 9th although those that have children were anticipating that schools would be open, and they would be able to operate normally.  

However, the Delta variant changed those plans and the agency had to make accommodations, those individuals may have to start telecommuting as the executive staff sees fit to continue business operation while fulfilling the needs of a staff member's family.

Commissioner Cloar also asked regarding those that were terminated, if once they were vaccinated, they would be able to reapply. Mr. Christie agreed stating that individuals that did not meet the mandate can reapply for positions available.

In response to questions from Commissioner Hemani, Mr. Christie stated that 4 employees requested religious exemption, 2 were approved. There were 15 employees that requested medical exemption, they were all accepted conditionally, adding that they all received a letter that said pending review with counsel. Letters to doctors of those 15 were sent out asking for additional information, as well. 

The Chair commended the director and the housing authority for their efforts in dealing with a complex situation. 

IX. Notices and Updates
The Chair stated that although the calendar of events in the Board packet information indicated that there would be a meeting in September, it had previously been agreed that the September meeting was cancelled.

X. Legal Matters
Attorney Gilmore echoed the Chair's comments regarding the importance of a well-informed Human Resources department, an HR that is abreast of this fast-changing area cannot "be expressed more highly than you have." Mr. Christie had been on top of, and receptive in all the things that were needed to be done leading up to the mandate. The Tampa Housing Authority, while not unusual, was on the forefront of taking the necessary actions before anyone else. 

XI. Unfinished Business

  • None to come before this forum.

XII. New Business

  • None to come before this forum.

XIII. Adjournment
There being no further business to come before this Board, the Chair declared this meeting of the THA Board of Commissioners adjourned at 10:24 a.m.

Approved this 20th day of October 2021.