The Lowell Sun: Grant gives housing complex a boost

6/20/09
By Rachel R. Briere

LITTLETON — Two years ago, a Pine Tree Park resident walked onto his back porch to get some air. But the wood planks below his feet were so rotted, one of his legs went right through it up to his knee.

“This is what got the whole ball rolling,” Michael Borsuk, director of the Littleton Housing Authority, said Wednesday in announcing a housing-repair grant.

Borsuk was joined by about 20 residents of the elderly and handicapped housing development to get an update on the renovation project. Initially, an emergency grant of $621,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development was allocated for the restoration of the eight residential buildings, which are home to about 60 people and a community center.

But given the deplorable conditions of the structures, additional funding was necessary to complete all the repairs needed to maintain a safe environment for all residents, officials said.

Borsuk began to scale back the project until state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and state Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford, stepped in. The pair secured an additional $540,000 to move forward with the original plan.

“We were nervous the funding would not be secured,” Arciero told residents. “However, there was a real need, and we’re glad we can help you.”

Each building will have its windows and roofs replaced, have vinyl siding installed, have the entry ways redesigned, and have new porches built.

Vareika Construction of West Bridgewater is handling the renovation.

“The scope of the project expanded, and the original funding would not have repaired all the damage,” Eldridge said.

The development, tucked off Route 2A and surrounded by towering pine trees, was built in the mid-1970s. Since then, little has been done in the way of improvements and renovations.

“We’d replace rotting windows as we’d go,” Borsuk said. “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on an artery.”

Resident Elaine O’Grady is ecstatic to receive new windows. When replacements were put in previously because of rot around the frames, the job was done shoddily, causing drafts during the winter months.

Her neighbor, Gail Brown, experienced the same thing.

“My windows are so rotted, I cannot believe I still have them,” she said.

Borsuk expects the project, which is already under way, to be completed by the middle of September.

“It’s all money well spent,” he said.

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