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Council considers CHR many issues

By Staff | May 4, 2012

City Council spent considerable time discussing early stages in the renewal of its contract with the Community Housing Resources, Inc., (CHR) touching on a variety of topics from relocating its offices to improving board transparency.

CHR’s five-year contract with the city expires at the end of September. Since it was formed, CHR has received about $14 million in support from the city.

CHR shares a building with the Center 4 Life that is in need of major repairs to the roof and air conditioning system and remodeling to make more efficient use of the space.

Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane said the city is looking at budgeting $600,000 on updating the building and whether or not council should consider moving CHR permanently to a separate location.

“That building is only appraised at about $1.2 million and we could easily top 50 percent of that, which would raise a whole other set of issues,” said Ruane.

Councilman Doug Congress, who serves as the city’s liaison to the CHR board, reported that CHR has been through five rocky years of board and financial trouble as well as executive director turnover. Just last month Kelly Collini was introduced as CHR’s third executive director in a year’s time.

Vice Chairman Mick Denham called for more transparency from the CHR whether or not it is required to follow the Sunshine Law. With a little advance notice he suggested the council could step in and help solve a problem rather than addressing a crisis situation.

That discussion raised the issue of whether the council should make appointments to the board, ratify appointments the board itself suggests, or possibly approve candidates.

“Given the tax dollars we budget to them, I think we need to have some say,” said Ruane.

“I think this is nothing more than an opening conversation with regard to the location,” responded CHR board president Richard Johnson. “I don’t think the location is a big issue. It’s a huge help for us to have a home.

“The transparency issue, at least since I’ve been involved, we have been a transparent organization and we’ve worked toward that goal,” Johnson added. “All of our meetings are open. We have a great working relationship with our current liaison Doug Congress and look forward to continuing to work with him. I’d like to say that we have come a long way and look forward to a great future.”

Congress will be reporting the council’s discussions to the full CHR board at its next meeing on May 14.

“Besides the space issue, I don’t want to burden CHR further in their financial state,” said Congress. “This is about not going where we went before. Just looking at the past year CHR should be commended for the economic and operational strides they have made.”