St. Lawrence County Planning Dept. may use housing rehab program to boost lead mitigation
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
The St. Lawrence County Planning Department wants to use funds from both their lead hazard mitigation program and a countywide housing rehab program to make the lead program more attractive to homeowners and contractors.
Planning Director Jason Pfotenhauer made the comment during a Monday, July 17 St. Lawrence County legislature Operations Committee meeting.At the June Operations Committee meeting, Pfotenhauer reported that the county was failing to meet benchmarks of participation in the lead program set by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD).
At the July Operations Committee meeting, he said participation is going up and HUD has temporarily suspended their benchmarks.
“We have funds that need to be distributed, but we are not currently out of compliance with HUD,” he said.
Pfotenhauer reported they’ve since completed one lead risk assessment and given out applications to several eligible households.
Pfotenhauer said there are currently three contractors in the county who meet the federal standards to do the lead abatement. Getting certified means taking a course and paying fees, which the county may be able to help with.
“We’re always looking for more [contractors] … if they’re willing to go through the process to get certified with HUD,” the planning director said. “There’s a five-day course requirement, and then additional fees that are necessary to be maintained by the contractor. We can pay for … the fee for the five-day course for the three contractors we do have, and would look to do that for additional contractors, if they were interested.”
Another obstacle is HUD’s limit on the amount of lead mitigation work. The cap is $20,000. Legislator Kevin Acres, R-Madrid, pointed out that the maximum amount may not be attractive to some contractors.
“You can’t really make much money on that, Acres said.” “If you could get HUD to raise that limit to 40 or 50, you’d have a lot of money to spend.”
Earlier in the meeting, the committee approved a resolution authorizing the full board chair to sign a contract with the North Country Housing Council to deliver the Countywide Housing Rehabilitation Program Round 3. Pfotenhauer said it may be possible to use that grant, plus the HUD lead abatement money, to fund larger lead abatement projects.
“Agreed, absolutely. What we’d like to do and what we are planning on doing is pairing up [the countywide housing rehab program resolution],” the planning director said. “If we can pair up some rehab on a unit with lead money, that certainly is more appealing to a contractor.”
Pfotenhauer said the rehabilitation program has been “very successful over the years, dating back to 1994.” He noted it has netted over $13 million for housing repairs in St. Lawrence County. Most recently, he said, the program funded redevelopment of rental housing in Rooseveltown, which is just east of Massena.
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