Sikeston Housing Authority funds help clear dilapidated properties

Saturday, January 17, 2009
Leonna Heuring ~ Standard Democrat
Trey Hardy, Sikeston, Mo., community redevelopment coordinator, and David Ziegenhorn, chairman of Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority, look over the old federal Compress building on North West Street in Sikeston. The site is just one of the dilapidated properties in Sikeston targeted for redevelopment.

SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Housing Authority is once again extending a helping hand to the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority.

The Housing Authority board presented a donation of almost $100,000 to the LCRA on Thursday.

"It's right at $98,000," said Bill Mitchell, chairman of the Sikeston Housing Authority's board. "This is money that we over the years have been able to accumulate due to the sound financial management that the Housing Authority has been operated under."

"We're greatly appreciative of the Housing Authority's contribution toward the LCRA's efforts," said David Ziegenhorn, LCRA chairman. "I believe that both bodies are moving toward the same goal of providing quality housing for the citizens of the city and we hope that we can continue good relations in working together to achieve that goal."

This donation is the second -- both about the same amount -- made to the LCRA to help remove dilapidated properties in the city.

"Housing Authority commissioners voted to donate $100,000 to the LCRA to provide start-up funds to get them going when it was just coming into being," Mitchell recalled. "I think it's safe to say that with the money that was initially granted by us to the LCRA it gave a big push -- it helped them get going to get the areas that were the worst, and therefore the first targeted, cleaned up and make them potentially available for redevelopment."

Addressing crime

In addition to providing the LCRA with funding for removing dilapidated structures, the Sikeston Housing Authority has also taken a proactive approach to addressing crime around the city's public housing with the initiation of the COPS program and, more recently, by providing funding for four full-time Sikeston Department of Public Safety officer salaries and two patrol vehicles dedicated to public housing areas.

"That is an ongoing commitment to the city by the Housing Authority," Mitchell said.

"It's been an outstanding program," said department director Drew Juden. "It has given us police officers in the public housing 24/7, it gives us the ability to have a very close monitoring of the people who come and go from those housing units. Our problem generally has been not the people registered to stay there but the people who move in after the fact."

Public housing units have often ended up with "three or four other people who don't belong there," Juden said. "With our officers spending the time that they spend there, they understand who the actual tenant is versus someone who is staying there and causing the problems. It has been very effective."

"We have seen a dramatic decline in inappropriate guests being housed in Sikeston Housing Authority properties," Mitchell said. "We are also seeing that the whole community is recognizing the benefit of the public housing officers because they are able to assist other officers in need of assistance at any time."

This latest donation should continue the pattern of improving conditions in public housing, according to officials.

"We think it's a step towards that phrase we use: 'Sikeston Proud,'" Mitchell said.

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