SARANAC LAKE - David Aldrich has announced his retirement after more than 10 years at the helm of the Harrietstown Housing Authority.
Aldrich was hired as the authority's facilities manager in 1999 and became executive director in September 2001. His last day with the authority is March 31.
"I've turned 65 recently and think I'm still young enough to go out and enjoy some things," said Aldrich, who lives with his wife, Adirondack Health President and CEO Chandler Ralph, in Lake Placid. "I have a honey-do list that's growing exponentially, and those are all things I like to do. So it's time."
Mary Lawthers, chair of the housing authority's Board of Commissioners, thanked Aldrich for his long service to the agency, calling him "a very effective public housing administrator and a wonderful person to work with."
The authority's board has picked a new executive director; Sarah Clarkin, who recently moved to Saranac Lake from the Glens Falls area, has a master's degree in natural resources planning from the University of Vermont, as well as program and organizational management experience in local and regional planning, land management and nature interpretation.
"We are so pleased to have found a strong candidate who is familiar with and committed to our community," Lawthers said in a news release.
The Harrietstown Housing Authority owns and operates two subsidized housing projects: the 35-unit low-income Algonquin Apartments on LaPan Highway and the 78-unit Lake Flower Apartments high-rise at 14 Kiwassa Road for income-qualified seniors and the disabled. It also administers a federal Housing and Urban Development voucher program for more than 125 income-eligible people in rental units throughout the community.
During his tenure as director, Aldrich said HHA has been able to modernize and upgrade both facilities.
"In the last 10 years, we've renovated all our units, so they've been updated with new appliances, cabinetry, energy-saving lighting systems," he said. "We built a new community room (in the high-rise) for the residents. I think we're very fortunate that we've been able to keep our units up to date."
The housing authority operates primarily on subsidies from HUD, and those subsidies continue to be cut.
"It's always been a battle, and it continues to be a battle," Aldrich said. "We're very subsidy dependent, and they're trying to trim our budgets and cut back on what we get and what we earn to manage these projects."
HUD has limited its subsidies to the authority this year to get the agency to spend down its reserves, Aldrich said. Recent funding cuts have also reduced the authority's capital budget, which dropped from $204,000 in 2000 to about $150,000 last year.
"That's the money that goes to keep these essentially 40-year-old apartments looking good and being a place that people want to live and not a blight on the community," Aldrich said.
In addition to retiring as director of the housing authority, Aldrich will step down as CEO of the Adirondack Housing Development Corporation, an HHA spin-off created several years ago. AHDC was in the news in late 2010 and early 2011 for its attempt purchase Paul Smith's College's Church Street dormitory and turn it into 12 units of work-force housing. The village secured a $400,000 grant for the project but redirected the money about a year ago to another housing initiative because it couldn't come to terms with AHDC on a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan.
Aldrich said AHDC is continuing to investigate other potential work-force housing projects in the community.
"There's a need for work-force housing, and that runs anywhere from people who work in the service industry to people who work in professional positions in the hospital," he said. "It's hard to find decent housing. A lot of our housing is very old and hasn't been taken care of very well."
Aldrich also said the need for subsidized housing hasn't diminished in the 40-plus years that the Algonquin Apartments, built in 1972, and the Lake Flower Apartments, built in 1970, have been around.
"Our occupancy rate is about 98 percent," he said. "There continues to be a need."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.