By Alton Porter
On the calendar, Crockett Housing Authority apartment residents are advancing forward toward the day when they might once again be able to do their laundry at the complexes where they live instead of having to go to public washaterias away from their homes to do the common chore of washing and drying their clothes.
CHA officials and staff began a test project in the laundry room located on George Briggs Street at Rose Street in the New Site multi-family residential complex on Friday, July 22, that could lead to the installation of washers and dryers in the laundry rooms on the premises of all four CHA apartment complexes.
It would be the first time in four years that CHA apartment laundry rooms would be equipped with washer and dryer equipment.
According to CHA Executive Director Kelley Stotts, the purpose of the test project is to see how residents at New Site receive and respond to the appliances being placed in the laundry room. If they pass the test, i.e., respond positively and are accepting of the equipment, similar appliances will be installed in laundry rooms at the other three CHA apartment complexes as well.
CHA officials had planned to start the test weeks ago, but a glitch in a $9,000 automatic teller type machine delayed the launch of the test, according to Stotts, members of the CHA Board of Commissioners and Office Manager Brittany Stapp.
The machine, installed in the outside wall near the front door of the CHA office at 186 E. Fannin Avenue, dispenses cards used to activate the washers and dryers in the laundry room and is also used to add credit to the cards when at least five dollars in cash is fed into it.
Following a meeting of the CHA board Thursday, July 21, Carole Stringer, CHA staff financial manager said CHA has invested upwards of $25,000 in the project so far, adding, that figure includes the cost of the card-issuing machine outside the CHA office, washers and dryers, and improvements – such as the building of counters, painting of walls and the ceiling and redoing the floor – inside the laundry room.
Speaking to the Courier, Stringer said, the machines have already been installed in the New Site laundry room and "they're going to start opening them tomorrow (Friday, July 22). Tomorrow morning is our first day to use this new machine. This (the card-dispensing machine) is what's been holding us up. We had to send part of the modem back out of this machine, and it's finally up and running today.
"So, they (New Site residents) will get newsletters tomorrow – letters in the mail, hand delivered – and it will be open tomorrow for the first time. So, everything should be up and running smoothly."
Asked how much it has cost to purchase machines and other equipment, and to prepare for and set up the project, Stringer said, "This (the machine at the office) is the largest expense. This is nearly $10,000. So, I'm looking at like $25,000, and that may be on the low side because we remodeled the rooms, we put new countertops in."
Stotts added, "Tomorrow (Friday, July 22) the doors are going to be open. We're kind of excited to see what's going to happen. We're sending a brochure around to everybody at New Site, letting them know" the equipment has been installed and is available for use.
Stringer said she anticipates, "It'll probably be quiet the first day until the news gets out that we're up and running."
CHA staffers told the Courier previously each wash-rinse cycle on the washing machines costs $2, and a drying cycle on the dryers costs $1.50. The washers and dryers are activated by cards purchased and credited from the machine at the CHA office building and will not accept cash.
Asked how long the test project will last, Stringer and Stotts said, that detail hasn't been finalized. "We're going to see how they look after them (the machines)," Stringer said.
Stotts agreed and added, "I'm thinking about giving them (New Site residents) two or three months" to test the new machines. "And if everything is running good, then we'll expand to another site," she said.
"And do one at a time," Stringer added.
Asked how she feels about getting started with the project, Stotts said, "I'm excited. It's been a long time waiting. We're very excited. It's way overdue."
She said in an interview with the Courier in May her predecessor closed down the laundry rooms on all four CHA sites four years ago because the washers and dryers had been abused and badly damaged, apparently by residents.
However, restoring the laundry rooms was one of the items at the top of her list of priorities when she became executive director on March 1, she said.