WHA Work Continues (Wilson Times)

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Public housing projects moving forward

Search for new WHA director should start soon

By Rochelle Moore | |Times Staff Writer
Sunday, May 05, 2013 5:42 PM

A plan should be set in place within the next several weeks to find a new executive director for the Wilson Housing Authority.

During the past two weeks, the authority has been led by interim director Patricia Ladensack. Ladensack, who is continuing to also work as the organization’s chief financial officer, is filling the director’s post due to the unexpected death of Edward Jagnandan.

Ladensack declined an interview last week about the Wilson Housing Authority’s ongoing projects and its search for a new director.

“The board hasn’t been able to come up with firm plans,” said Brian Pridgen, attorney for the Wilson Housing Authority. “I would anticipate a search starting soon. Hopefully, we would have that firmed up and established within a month.”

Thomas Eatmon, chairman of the Wilson Housing Authority board, said the authority is moving forward with the projects Jagnandan started. They are also adjusting to the unexpected changes in leadership within the organization.

“The housing authority is still on schedule to complete the projects,” Eatmon said. “Everything is well with the staff. Everyone is adjusting as well as they can.”

Finding a new CEO of Jagnandan’s caliber may be challenging, Mayor Bruce Rose said. “Good directors are hard to find,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a tough job to replace Edward, but we’ve got to do it. We’ve lost a wonderful director here. He was energetic, had a great vision for the authority, and we miss that.”

Rose said the projects started by Jagnandan will be finished, and the city’s impact of millions of dollars in investment will be felt.

“I’m very confident the housing authority is going to move on with the projects,” Rose said.

Jagnandan’s leadership was recently recognized by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield.

Butterfield, D-Wilson, gave remarks on the House floor on April 26, close to a week after Jagnandan died from a heart attack. Butterfield said that Jagnandan was a great leader, public servant and personal friend who will be missed.

“A righteous advocate of low-income families, senior citizens and the disabled, Mr. Jagnandan served dutifully as Wilson Housing Authority’s chief executive director for six years,” Butterfield said in his remarks. “During the course of his illustrious tenure, I had the unique opportunity to watch Mr. Jagnandan successfully embark on building a brighter future for Wilson residents who rely on subsidized housing.”

Butterfield mentioned some of the projects spearheaded by Jagnandan in his effort to improve housing for the less fortunate in Wilson. He was also involved in the Wilson community and a member of the Wilson Rotary Club.

Jagnandan was not a native of Wilson, but his contributions to the community “make him a son of Wilson,” Butterfield said. “He will forever be missed but never forgotten in the city of Wilson and across North Carolina.”

Butterfield’s remarks are now a part of history as part of the Congressional Record. Butterfield mailed a framed copy of Butterfield’s remarks on the House floor to Jagnandan’s wife, Brenda, said Kezmiché Atterbury, Butterfield’s communications director.

CONSTRUCTION STARTING NEARING

The Wilson Housing Authority is getting close to starting construction on a new 38-unit apartment complex for the elderly, Pinnacle Point, in the Forrest Road community, said Peter Behringer, a managing member of Maryland-based TCG Development Advisors.

“The construction loan is closed,” Behringer said. “We’re just waiting on one more approval from HUD before construction will start. We’re at the starting line. We’re just waiting for HUD to give us the green light.”

Pinnacle Point will be the authority’s first new construction project in 30 years.

The authority is also waiting for N.C. Housing Finance Agency approval of a $50.7 million Rental Assistance Demonstration project that will include tax exempt bond financing and low-income housing tax credits for the renovation of 535 public housing units in Wilson.

“We anticipate approval from the Housing Finance Agency in August,” he said. “I think there’s a very good chance it will be approved.”

The project includes converting 231 apartments at Whitfield Homes, 210 apartments in the C. Bruce Rose Plaza and E.B. Jordan Homes and 94 apartments in El Ramey Circle and the Forrest Road community. When the work is complete, the units will be attached to the Section 8 voucher program and provide a new stream of revenue for the housing authority. Section 8 voucher recipients currently take their vouchers to any rental unit of their choice in the city.

The project is the largest Jagnandan was able to secure during his 37-year career. Behringer said that the Wilson Housing Authority, under Jagnandan’s leadership, has been progressive in trying to improve its housing stock as federal funds decline.

“The housing authority has been out in front of housing authorities in the state and the country,” Behringer said. “Edward was certainly a visionary. He really moved the authority forward in understanding the need to switch public housing units to project-based vouchers. When we’re done with them, regardless of who is going to be the permanent director, the authority will continue to go in the same direction.”