PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - The mood surrounding the Phillipsburg Housing Authority meeting between residents and commissioners Wednesday night could have been described as "tense" as confusion and even animosity surrounded upcoming rental rate increases, upcoming bans on smoking and complaints about the upkeep of facilities from about one dozen residents who voiced their thoughts.
Even before residents of the public housing community could formally speak in a crammed meeting room, one was led away in handcuffs following his arrest by a Phillipsburg Police Department officer, after several requests made by Paul Rummerfield, executive director of the PHA, to conduct himself in manner conducive to the meeting's agenda were ignored.
"Go ahead, arrest me," the man taunted the officer, and a few seconds later the request was granted.
The crux of the concerns were based upon a "flat rate" rent increase scheduled to take place in October.
Currently the flat rates are at $650 per unit, whether that be a one-unit or a four-unit facility.
The rate hike could demand some residents come up with an additional $227 per month. That figure includes all utilities, except phone and cable service.
"This will impact about 100 tenants," Rummerfield noted.
The exact amount will depend on the fair market value as mandated by recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements.
The rate hike is a result of the federal 2014 Appropriations Act, according to Rummerfield.
A public hearing on the rate increase is scheduled for September 3rd.
In other business Wednesday night, the upcoming smoking ban was also discussed.
Starting August 1st, any guest or relatives or new tenants will not be allowed to smoke in individual apartment units or on the PHA grounds.
Current residents will not be allowed to smoke in what is termed "common areas" on that same date, but will be allowed to smoke in their apartments through the end of the year, at which time it will be prohibited.
Other issues discussed involved vandals that have damaged some of the washing and drying units utilized by residents.
The PHA is "taking measures to prevent vandals" but Rummerfield warned residents that the damage, no matter who is causing it, has to stop.
"If they continue to be vandalized they may be taken out," Rummerfield said.
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