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Ogdensburg Housing Authority fee increases outrage residents

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Recent fee increases for services offered by the Ogdensburg Housing Authority have some residents outraged, saying that the agency is making vulnerable tenants pay for the results of mismanagement.

The fees include an increase from $0 to $25 to install air conditioners, a $50 fee – up from $25 – to let someone back into their apartment if they lock themselves out after working hours and an increase from $.75 to $1 to use washing machines and dryers.

The housing authority will also no longer mail payment receipts to tenants; people can pick them up at the office at 1101 Jay St.

“They are taking advantage of the poor,” Antoinette M. Ferguson, a resident of Centennial Tower said.

“People just can’t come up with that [money],” Mrs. Ferguson said. “They’re going to have to take it out of their grocery money.”

The fee increases come on the heels of the passage of the $2.5 million 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

Executive Director William J. Seymour Jr. said, “The fees we were charging were not covering our costs.”

Laura A. Farr, resident of Parkview Rise, said she and other tenants feel like they are being punished by the housing authority with the fee increases.

In 2013 the housing authority board of directors approved a budget that was roughly $40,000 in the red.

“We feel that we are having to pay for the $40,000 budget mistake that was made,” Mrs. Farr said.

Mr. Seymour said the authority used money from its fund balance to pay off the budget gap last year but when asked how the gap was approved in the first place he said, “I don’t have an answer for that right now.”

Board Chairman Michael P. Frary did not return a call requesting comments on the issue.

Mrs. Farr, a five-year resident of Parkview Rise, said, “It’s not fair. The ones who made the mistakes should be taking the cuts. Most people are afraid to do anything about it because they’re afraid of being kicked out.”

The recently approved budget also cut a position held by maintenance employee Gregory J. Denny and demoted Maintenance Supervisor and Modernization Coordinator Thomas R. Bouchey to senior maintenance employee. Mr. Bouchey’s demotion comes with a $6,400 pay cut.

Mrs. Ferguson said the sudden onset of the fees is irresponsible and that the authority should have had more foresight in crafting past budgets.

“All of a sudden they slap us with all these fees,” she said. “That’s what’s wrong.”

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