Housing authority directs Grand Oaks project

Formed 20 years ago, the Hillsboro Housing Authority oversees activities at Grand Oaks, a housing alternative for special-needs people.

The board, along with Pam Riesen, executive director, and Ron Freeman, maintenance director, provides housing to elderly, near-elderly and handicapped individuals.

People stay at Grand Oaks after they no longer feel they are able to stay in their home but before they go to a nursing home.

?We?re kind of the in between stop,? Riesen said.

The board meets monthly to review financial statements and hear what has happened during the previous month.

?The board is very good and easy to work with,? Riesen said. ?They are very supportive in everything I do.?

She said she depends on the board to advise her on the best decision in a given situation.

The board also is responsible for passing resolutions, such as a recent one designating the housing authority as elderly, near elderly, handicap. They also help determine the rules and regulations for Grand Oaks.

Currently, the board is working on five-year and one-year plans to be approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plan will include a set of guidelines for the dwelling lease.

The board has to follow HUD guidelines, but they do have some leeway to adjust for the local situation.

Although Riesen makes most decisions on her own, she goes to the board for its advice on major decisions or if an unusual circumstance arises.

During meetings, board members discuss and contribute their ideas for decisions and upcoming projects.

Riesen goes over everything with the board so they will be informed. This is important because tenants can call the board members with questions or comments.

Monthly activities are organized for Grand Oaks, including a pot-luck dinner for the board and tenants and a morning coffee.

They are trying to get a monthly game day started as well.

In the future, Riesen said she would like to work on better communication between the tenants, and start a newsletter.

Several projects are planned for Grand Oaks.

?We have some plans to update the apartments,? Riesen said.

They also want to landscape the grounds.

Riesen also would like to see improvements made on the driveway, such as sealing it.

Recently, a project to paint and put new carpeting in some of the apartments was completed.

Riesen?s long-range goals include putting in a storm shelter at the apartments and providing outside storage.

Riesen would like to be able to create an area for tenants to gather outside in the evenings.

Board members are appointed by the city council, but the board does not receive city funding.

?We basically run on rent and subsidies from the government and any grants we can get a hold of,? Riesen said.

The grants are used for extra projects, such as painting and recarpeting.

Until the past year, Grand Oaks has had a waiting list for tenants. Currently, 21 of the 24 units are filled.

Members of the board serve four-year terms. They are Elfrieda Funk, Norman Ensz, Cynthia Reeh, Kermit Ratzlaff and Walt Kleinsasser, chair.

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