ROGERS CITY - Presque Isle County commissioners hired Michelle LaBar as the county's housing administrator, familiar territory for the former head of Northeast Michigan Affordable Housing's Rogers City office.
Commissioners voted unanimously to hire LaBar to handle grants from Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Commissioner Kris Sorgenfrei was absent. Her new office will be run directly by the county, with two as-yet unnamed commissioners serving on a housing committee, board Chairman Carl Altman said. She'll be picking up for where Northeast Michigan Affordable Housing, her former employer, left off when it closed.
"I think it could end up being a winning situation for the county and the people who need those services," Altman said.
LaBar has experience with the job, and could potentially handle MSHDA grants for another county as well. Commissioner Steve Lang suggested seeking a contract between Presque Isle and Montmorency counties to handle grants for the latter. She'll start on March 3 with a salary of $30,000, plus benefits.
Presque Isle County could use a portion of $80,000 it has from past MSHDA projects to get the office started, Lang said. This money is from repayments made by homeowners who used grant money to make improvements on their houses. While the county can use $16,000 of it at the start, this money must be replaced by repayments from future home projects.
Otherwise, LaBar's new office will be funded with administrative portions of a grant MSHDA typically awards the county every two years, Lang said. It's a $150,000 county allocation funding grant, formerly granted for a two-year period, to help low income homeowners complete necessary repairs or winterization projects, and 18 percent is set aside for administration purposes.
LaBar also told commissioners that MSHDA has now allowed for an additional 10 percent of project costs to be used toward delivery fees, such as house inspection costs and certain office costs. The county allocation funding grants have changed as well, LaBar said. Instead of being awarded every two years, administrators can reapply once the $150,000 is spent.
While NEMAH had been handling the grants and other housing programs for Presque Isle and Montmorency counties, among others, the nonprofit folded after board members discovered its financial books were in disarray, according to a release from the nonprofit. They appointed LaBar and another as co-CEOs and attempted to get back on track, but the damage had been done. The nonprofit needed an audit to comply with federal regulations, an audit accountants told the board they couldn't perform. MSHDA suspended the nonprofit from handling grants.
Lang said the county is still working on some of the finer details of the new office, and expects commissioners will work them out over the next several meetings. The county had its own housing administrator in years past, and LaBar should have no trouble getting a running start.
"The faster we get (LaBar) in there, the faster she can get some grants on top of the grants we're going to get," he said.
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