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Agency begins improvements at housing units

September 06, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The Hagerstown Housing Authority is spending $700,000 on landscaping, fencing and entrance signs for its public housing communities, but some Noland Village residents said Friday that the money would be better spent increasing security and youth activities.

"They need to do more for the community, for the kids," said Betty Seals, who has children ages 17, 15 and 10.

The fencing, signs and landscaping are for security and aesthetics, Ted Shankle, the authority's executive director, said Friday.

By making the communities more attractive, authority officials hope to entice a better echelon of residents and get rid of drug trafficking, Shankle said in an earlier interview.

The fencing, signs and some landscaping will be done by the end of November, he said. The landscaping will be finished next spring.

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Besides Noland, other communities that will be spruced up include Frederick Manor, Westview Homes, Parkside Homes and Douglas Court, according to Hagerstown's Board of Zoning Appeals, which approved the improvements.

Providing more activities for neighborhood children would help keep them out of trouble, said resident Virginia Donald.

Seals said she'd rather see a basketball court built than the 3- to 4-foot fences being installed to block off back yards.

George Siebert, the authority's security director, said authority officials are considering replacing a basketball court that was closed several years ago because of noise complaints.

"People are complaining about the fencing going up. It feels like they're trying to barricade people in," Seals said.

Resident Pam Groves, 23, said the fence won't help security much since it is so low children can climb over it easily.

Siebert said he thinks the fences will help more than hurt, though it could pose problems when security officials are trying to get to an area quickly.

Residents said they'd rather see more security guards because they've only been patrolling the area four hours a night.

Siebert said that since budget cuts have reduced his staff, guards rotate among the public housing neighborhoods, spending less time in each.

Residents said they have seen less drug activity during the past year, but some said they think it has just moved inside the homes.

Donald said the authority's "one strike and you're out" policy is helping.

Authority officials said some tenants have been evicted because of the policy where someone who is convicted on a drug charge or violent felony and gives a public housing address results in tenants at that address being evicted.

Siebert said drug dealers are learning not to give public housing addresses so their girlfriends don't get evicted.

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