Wilmington mayor, council members in DC seeking over $30 million for WHA mold crisis
Councilmembers told federal officials they'll need $12 million to solve the short-term mold problem, and as much as $32 million to address the full scope of the disaster.
Several Wilmington city council members are currently in Washington, DC to advocate on behalf of the community for several causes.
Mayor Bill Saffo and council members Clifford Barnett and Luke Waddell met with congressional delegates from North Carolina and federal officials to seek infrastructure funding and legislation that would benefit the city. The council members say they’re particularly focused on flooding mitigation.
They also went to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ask for emergency funding to address mold problems and resident displacement at the Wilmington Housing Authority.
Mayor Saffo told HUD the authority would need $12 million to get 100 apartments — which have already been remediated but still need to be rebuilt — plus another $20 million to repair the additional apartments which are expected to be impacted by the mold crisis. The sum total of $32 to $34 million is a surprising new figure — but Saffo said it's what is necessary to get all the mold-riddled apartments back online.
“We're paying a lot of money to house people who are displaced, and these people need to get back in their homes and their neighborhoods," he said.
More than 150 families, including over 350 children, are currently living in hotels and corporate apartments while the authority tries to remediate the mold problem.
It’s an unsustainable and expensive solution to a problem that has grown out of control after years of missed inspections and neglect.
"...100 units have been fully remediated, they're sitting there ready to go, we have contractors ready to go and do the work, we just need the money," said councilman Luke Waddell. "There are 350 plus children in these hotels."
Saffo added that a HUD team is coming down to Wilmington from DC to inspect the apartments and assess the situation. He also said WHA is "weeks away" from getting a new executive director who can help right the ship. Saffo and WHA board members have all pointed to the abrupt departure of former CEO Katrina Redmon as a major factor in the WHA mold crisis. Redmon broke her contract, which was not due to run out until 2023, and resigned, telling WECT news that WHA was "in such a good place" — an appraisal that gave no hint of the mold crisis that, at the exact time of Redmon's departure, was spinning out of control, prompting questions from the WHA board of commissioners.