- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Bradenton to press Telesis for access to inspect interior conditions of apartments

BRADENTON — A little more than a month after the Bradenton Village Apartments were cleared of about 140 exterior code violations first cited in 2009, city officials still want to investigate ongoing resident complaints about interior conditions.

Whether that happens will depend on discussions this week with Washington, D.C.-based Telesis Corp. founder and president Marilyn Melkonian, who was due in Bradenton last week to meet with the city and the Bradenton Housing Authority, but the visit was delayed.

Telesis owns Bradenton Village until the year 2053 under the terms of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Hope VI contract signed prior to its construction in 2003.

Bradenton Village is a mixed public and private housing development with about half of the 350 units used for public housing. Under the terms of the contract, Bradenton Village has total managerial authority over the entire development

It’s that control that has frustrated BHA Executive Director Ellis Mitchell Jr., who in January called the project a “bad deal,” because of BHA’s inability to address residents’ complaints of mold and mildew inside their apartments and management bullying. Telesis denies bullying accusations. Property manager Sheree White-Townsend has acknowledged that interior issues exist, but blames the residents for any mold and mildew as “self-inflicted.”

Former residents of Bradenton Village have gone on record with the Bradenton Herald, but current residents have been fearful to do so. BHA Commissioner Norma Dunwoody, a resident of Bradenton Village, said the issue isn’t going away and “Telesis doesn’t give a hill of beans.”

‘Did half their job’

At the board’s July 23 meeting, Dunwoody said, “We need to start to thinking about this more seriously. My understanding is the city only did a little dress keeping in the exterior (inspection). They looked at dirt and in my opinion, they only did half their job.”

Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk has been a vocal critic of the management and maintenance of the complex. He confirmed Melkonian is due to visit Bradenton this week to discuss the city’s ability to gain access to interior units, but he declined further comment. Melkonian has missed two scheduled meetings with the BHA and has declined comment.

The BHA is concerned about what it will eventually inherit in 2053. Former BHA Commissioner Rigo Rivera likened it to “slumlords in New York. Those (low-income) developments depreciate over 50 years and we are going to take this over and those buildings are just going to be there. It’s not supposed to be that way.”

BHA board chair Napoleon Mills said the BHA shouldn’t have to worry about what it will rightfully take over when the contract expires.

“If (Telesis) continues to let the buildings get to the point where they are of no use at all by continuing to patch, patch, patch, before you know it, they will be unusable.”

Deciphering contract

Mitchell said the problem is that Telesis has been asked to do everything they were asked to do by the city, but they haven’t been asked to do enough. He hopes this week’s visit by Melkonian will bring the city’s and BHA’s concerns to light. He said another problem is trying to decipher the 400-page Hope VI contract.

“The BHA may actually have more rights than we are aware of,” he said. “But deciphering the contract is an issue.”

The board agreed to get cost estimates for having the contract legally reviewed.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on [email protected]


(c)2015 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

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