Two Merced County supervisors will serve on short-handed housing authority board

Two county supervisors will serve as emergency commissioners for the Merced County Housing Authority, allowing the dilapidated board to rebuild itself.

Jerry O'Banion, district five, and Hub Walsh, district two, will serve on the housing authority's board until permanent members are appointed, after the supervisors unanimously voted to approve the measure Tuesday morning.

The housing authority has been unable to meet since November, when four members of the seven-seat commission resigned.

The emergency appointments were necessary because the authority must approve an end-of-the year report that must be filed with the federal government by Dec. 15, said Rennice Ferrario, director of the housing authority.

The board's crumbling began after a grand jury report recommended the removal of anyone who worked at the housing authority or had ties to Firm Build, specifically Mary Stillahn, Charles Reyburn and Patrick Bowman.

Karen Henderson and Delia Garibay also resigned last month, citing other reasons for their departures.

The two remaining commissioners -- Margaret Pia and Jose Delgadillo -- were appointed in August.

The Board of Supervisors appoints members to the housing authority, but the county has no role in the authority's daily work, which reports to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Among the four openings on the board now, there are special requirements for two of the positions.

Two members must be current housing authority tenants, with one living in public housing and the other receiving Section 8 assistance. At least one of these tenant positions has to be filled by a resident who's at least 62 years old.

Because the new openings are the result of resignations, the final commissioners will be appointed only until the former members' terms expire.

The tenant commissioners would remain on the board until October 2010, while two at-large appointments would stretch through February 2012, said Katie Albertson, spokeswoman for Merced County.

There's no deadline for applications yet.

"The supervisors want to make sure there is ample opportunity for interested people to apply. The goal has always been to get the most qualified people and the people most interested in serving for these positions," Albertson said.

The purpose of the housing authority is to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing for people of low income at an affordable rate.

Residents interested in serving on the authority board should contact the clerk of the Board of Supervisors at (209) 385-7366, or fill out an online application at www.co.merced.ca.us/bcc. Applicants also have to complete the supplemental application form.

"The board members mentioned today that there are several people that have already expressed interest," Albertson said. "The work that the housing authority does to provide affordable and safe housing to low income families in our area is very important."

The Merced County Housing Authority is scheduled to meet tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the housing authority building, 405 U St. There are two items on the agenda: the approval of a yearly score card that must be submitted to the federal government and a personnel or potential litigation issue to be discussed in closed session.

Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.