COLUMBIA, S.C. — (WLTX) -- The Columbia Housing Authority Board of Commissioners held their first meeting with the four newly appointed board members tonight and some big decisions were made.
The four newly appointed board members Anne Sinclair, Kara Simmons, James Chatfield and Georgia Mjartan were sworn into the board on Thursday.
After they all took their oath as official members, next on the agenda was appointing a new chair of the board and vice chair. Earnest Cromartie was selected as chairman and newly appointed member Anne Sinclair is now the vice chair.
"The pressure is to serve the residents, the pressure is to meet the needs of the residents that have been displaced and the pressure is to make sure we can rebuild trust have accountability and transparency," Cromartie said.
It has been more than two months since two men were found dead in their apartments at Allen Benedict Court from a gas leak. The new chairman asked Executive Director Gilbert Walker about how they could have more accountability moving forward.
"Within the next 60 days the board should see an new organizational chart and be able to make some decision on how best to restructure the Columbia Housing Authority to best meet the needs of its residents and citizens of Columbia," Cromartie said.
Cromartie and the board all agreed that affordable housing is a major issue in the capital city. The most recent numbers show that 70 of the 239 families displaced are still searching for a new home. 144 of the 411 displaced residents are school aged children. Mjartan motioned that all of those students should have the option to stay in their current school district despite where they move for the rest of the school year.
"The children who were affected by the Allen Benedict Court displacement, which was certainly a trauma for them not only at the time of the displacement but the potential continued trauma if they were to then have another displacement from their school of origin," Mjartan said. "Then the school that they have been going to for the in some cases the last 6 months or the last 4 or 5 years, if they then had to be displaced by their school then relocated to a new home that would be an additional trauma, that could be an additional trauma."
She said this would be the families decision to make but the motion was approved and the board will be drafting a request to Richland School District One.
As the new board continues to move forward Mjartan said transparency and accountability will be their priority.
The authority said their goal is to get the remaining residents still searching for a new home in a permanent situation by the end of this month.