Getting off to a fresh start

Now that Melody McClurg has been hired legally as the new executive director of the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority, she will have quite a mess — both literally and figuratively — to clean up.

Obviously, McClurg is entitled to begin with a clean slate. She had nothing to do with creating the authority’s many problems. As she put it during a JMHA board meeting Wednesday, “I was hired to lead the housing authority in a forward direction. I will not get involved in anything going on before me … we’ve got to push forward, one issue at a time.”

On Wednesday, a second vote to employ McClurg was held, at the urging of board member Tony Morelli. Referring to the first vote, during a Sept. 24 meeting that was not held in compliance with state open meetings laws, Morelli commented that, “I’ll take responsibility that we may have done something wrong.”

McClurg seems to be well-qualified for the job. According to board members, she is a licensed nursing home administrator with experience in health care, community relations and law enforcement.

Her ability to take care of the fundamentals is being put to the test.

During Wednesday’s meeting, some residents of JMHA housing units complained about a variety of concerns. They included infestations of cockroaches and bedbugs, moldy carpets because of leaking air conditioners, even piles of old tires serving as breeding areas for mosquitoes. One woman told board members work orders for her unit dating back to May have not been addressed.

Board Chairman Dr. Frank Petrola chimed in that the JFK apartment complex “is filthy.”

People living in publicly funded housing have a right to expect administrators will take care of problems such as those cited on Wednesday.

McClurg — with the active involvement of the board and cooperation from residents — needs to make basic health and safety considerations her top priority.

She will not be able to take care of every need immediately. There simply is too much to do.

The authority’s problems — and there are many — date back years. McClurg’s hiring offers an opportunity for a fresh start. Board members should insist on regular reports regarding progress in making the necessary corrections.