|$326m stimulus program in TX|
|Poor management statewide|
|11,000 homes weatherized, state claims, though public cannot get details|
State investigators are looking into allegations of mismanagement in a $15 million stimulus weatherization program in San Antonio after the director of the program was forced to step down.
Department investigators came to San Antonio at the request of Gloria Arriaga, executive director for the Alamo Area Council of Governments, who last week placed Rose Jackson, her housing director and head of the Weatherization Assistance Program, on administrative leave. Arriaga told officials she suspected administrative mismanagement and asked the state for a complete audit of the weatherization program's books. Texas Watchdog left a voicemail Thursday afternoon for a Rose V. Jackson in San Antonio, and we'll update this story if we hear from her.
Department specialists are also working with Tri-County Community Action Inc., a nonprofit doing work in nine East Texas counties, and Community Services Agency of South Texas, a nine-county nonprofit, to fix administrative problems that are threatening their weatherization programs.
"We have spent a lot of time with these organizations and have sent a loud and intense message that administrators need to grab their staff by the throat and fix these problems," Gerber said.
Abilene's troubles may make it impossible for the agency to meet the federal deadline in August 2011 to finish the houses it agreed to weatherize and spend its total. In that event, Gerber said, the money would be wrested from the agency and given to a program that could meet the 2011 deadline.
Considering the huge sums given to these agencies and the heightened levels of regulation and oversight by the federal and state governments, Gerber said he thought the number of agencies in trouble was modest. He pointed to Sheltering Arms Senior Services of Houston, which was plagued early on with administrative and workmanship troubles, as exemplary of the willingness of agencies to learn from sometimes pointed criticism from the department.
While Gerber said he was pleased that contractors in Texas have now weatherized more than 11,000 home and apartment units, Housing and Community Affairs is still scrambling to catch up from a very slow start. Although Texas received the second largest amount of money for weatherization next to the $394.7 million granted the state of New York, the state has spent $52,558,254, or just 16.7 percent of its total, through the first half of this month.
California, with $185.8 million, continues to lag well behind Texas, but Texas lags well behind states with much smaller programs like Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And while Texas has completed less than a third of the units in its projections, Mississippi has completed 65 percent of the 5,468 units in its estimated total.
"All in all, I'm generally pleased with where we are right now," Gerber said. "Almost all of the agencies we're working with have stepped up to get us where we need to be."