Mississippi County public housing office will remain open

Mississippi County public housing office will remain open

OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) – The Mississippi County Public Facilities Board office in Osceola

will remain open. Administrators met Thursday to discuss relocating the office to Paragould after reports of mismanaged money.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development met with Mississippi County Public Facilities Board Executive Director David Hamilton and board members to discuss why the county's housing assistance program should be moved to Paragould.

Instead of relocating, board members decided to work on a long-term plan to keep the public facilities board office in Osceola open. Hamilton said a lack of funding, not mismanagement, has put the program in financial distress.

"If you take away the program from Mississippi County, you're taking jobs away, then people will move away," said Sherry Young, a Mississippi County resident who attended Thursday's meeting.

Mississippi County Public Facilities Board Chairman Homer Thompson said when the sequester hit, HUD budgets were cut putting them in a tough position.

In a letter dated Thursday, September 1, 2011, Hamilton explained to Miguel Sanchez, director of the Financial Management Division of Housing Vouchers for HUD, that in Dec. 2008, the Mississippi County office took over 150 Blytheville housing vouchers at the request of HUD. Hamilton said after leasing the majority of the vouchers, he learned only about 70 had been funded.

"We still got the same employees, we're just going to have to tighten our belts," Thompson said.

Little Rock Public Housing Director Johnny Wooley said in a July 2014 letter to MCPFB Board Chairman Homer Thompson that the MCPFB "failed to implement internal controls to ensure that it properly managed program funds. The financial position of the MCPFB is insolvent."

Hamilton said because he notified HUD about the lack of funding three years ago and has cut costs significantly in his office, the board should discuss alternatives to closing the office.

"We cut our employment down to about 71 percent. I shopped around until we found a cheaper insurance company for benefits. Our insurance was cut in half. We have eliminated travel in training. That means that we're not going to be trained. If anything new comes up with HUD we can't afford to go out and get the training for it."

Five hundred-fifty seven families participate in the Mississippi County program. Eight hundred-fifty two Mississippi County families are on a participant waiting list.

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