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HUD official: Aurora Housing Authority should pay back fed grant

The federal government is looking inpossible recovering grant money it claims AuorrHousing Authority did not use properly. Maoffice AurorHousing Authority

The federal government is looking into possible recovering grant money it claims the Auorra Housing Authority did not use properly. Main office of the Aurora Housing Authority on Plum Street in Aurora on Wednesday, January 30, 3, 2013. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 2, 2013 11:38AM

AURORA – Claiming the Aurora Housing Authority did not follow rules of a stimulus grant program, a federal official is recommending the AHA be required to pay almost $350,000 back to federal government.

In a 2012 audit report, Kelly Anderson, a U.S. Housing and Urban Development regional inspector general, recommends that the Aurora Housing Authority be required to reimburse HUD for $343,000.

According to the report, the Housing Authority failed to ensure contractors purchased products manufactured in the United States or that met Energy Star standards; failed to ensure all contractors paid prevailing wages in accordance with the Davis-Bacon Act; and did not accurately document work that was complete before payments were made. Those stipulations were required by the Recovery Act grant rules.

“As a result of the Authority’s noncompliance, HUD and the Authority lacked assurance that more than $346,000 in Recovery Act grant funds were used appropriately,” the report reads.

Anderson also wrote that the public did not have access to accurate information regarding the number of jobs created and retained by the grant funds.

Steve Meiss, director of HUD’s Chicago Office of Public Housing, will have the final say on whether the Housing Authority is required to repay the grant. The AHA audit report is dated Sept. 5, 2012.

Aurora Housing Authority Executive Director Keith Gregory said Wednesday that the Authority is still working with the inspector general and a decision has not yet been made. Gregory, who joined the Housing Authority in September, said the AHA filed a response to the audit report in October.

“We will work with them to address this issue,” Gregory said.

Under the Recovery Act, the Housing Authority received more than $1.4 million in grant funds in March 2009.

About 95 percent of the grant funds were used on capital improvement projects at the Southwind public housing complex at 1223 Pearl St., according to AHA maintenance officials. Some work was also done at the Eastwood public housing complex at 1644 Grove St. The funds were used to buy windows, roofing materials, pay contractors and other capital improvement costs.

The AHA’s contractor purchased $2,400 in roofing products manufactured in Canada and the AHA was unable to provide documentation identifying the location of manufacture for $117,419 of the products purchased as part of the grant contract, according to the report.

Meiss confirmed Wednesday that a final decision has not been made. The inspector general agreed to give the Housing Authority until Dec. 31, 2013, to come up with documentation that will negate need to repay the funds.

“If documentation is not obtained, repayment will have to be made,” Meiss said.

HUD is requesting documents that explain why Energy Star-approved materials were not used on the project; a Buy American waiver; and documentation of corrective payments were made to employees by a contractor in question. HUD is also requesting the Housing Authority prove that AHA officials undergo training relative to capital fund grant programs.

Gregory, who has worked at a number of housing authorities, said that housing authorities nationwide were not prepared to deal with the federal grant regulations. He said the Buy American rules were especially hard to substantiate.

“Because of that, they were very problematic,” Gregory said. “Ultimately, the work was done, it was done well and it benefited the Housing Authority residents.”

In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided an additional $4 billion to public housing agencies to carry out capital and management activities, including the modernization and development of public housing, according to HUD.

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