'A thing of beauty now'HACAP to open at new Orchard Hill site Monday
Washington County HACAP will have a new home next week. The organization will move from its temporary location at Building 3 in Orchard Hill to its permanent home right next door in Building 1, to the north and west.
The Head Start preschool classes at HACAP will begin at the new building at 7:30 a.m. Monday. Julie Potratz, a Head Start teacher, said she is excited to be in a newly remodeled building. She’s looking forward to the extra floor space and storage at Building 1.
“I’m anxious to hear what the families think,” Potratz said.
Perhaps the biggest change for the Head Start teachers is that everything they need will be under one roof. That was not true of their former location at Old Main on the north side of Lexington Boulevard. At Old Main, the classes were taught in one building but the food was kept in another, which meant the staff had to go outside to fix the students’ lunch.
Cinda Davies cooks the meals for the students. She is in awe of the remodeled kitchen, which features a new microwave, stove, sink and cupboards.
“I should be a better cook over here,” Davies joked.
The new kitchen is twice as large as the old one and large enough to house all the freezers. At Old Main, Davies had to go outside to get to the freezers.
Tom Poland, who is in charge of maintenance at HACAP, said the new building is more convenient for him, too.
“There are no steps, which makes it easier to load food,” he said.
Washington County HACAP had been at its former location at Old Main since 1991. However, a few years ago, the HACAP director and the county board of supervisors realized that Old Main was short on space for apartments.
The Washington County HACAP apartment complex offers 13 dwellings for people who meet the homeless criteria of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They pay one-third of their income in rent and must complete a program to ensure that they’re making progress toward self-reliance.
Ed Raber, who is on HACAP’s board of directors, said the organization’s housing program is a success because it’s much more than just rental assistance.
“HACAP provides a family sustainability program,” he said. “You can’t just go there and live rent free. You have to work or get an education, and they help you through that. They have a good record of helping people transition to a more self-sufficient life.”
HACAP received an $80,000 grant from the Eastern Iowa Housing Trust Fund in 2011 to remodel a portion of Old Main into apartments. Washington County HACAP director RenElla Crawford hoped that would be enough to pay for three new apartments, but after going out for bids she learned it would pay for two.
Work on the new apartments was supposed to begin in October 2011. HACAP’s offices, with the exception of the Head Start classroom, moved to Building 3 at the end of September so the remodeling could commence, although it did not start until a few months later.
The bulk of the remodeling expense was paid for through a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Crawford said moving from one building to another has been confusing for HACAP’s clients but she said most of them know the offices are on the south side of Lexington Boulevard.
Building 1 had been vacant for about five years. Crawford said it was not in good shape when she looked inside before the remodeling project but that it is a thing of beauty now. Not only was the building remodeled, but a driveway all around the building was added to make it more accessible.
Crawford commented that the parking is much better at the new location than at the old. A new sewer line was also installed in the area.
Former Washington County supervisor Wes Rich said the sewer at Orchard Hill is well known to be deficient. He said he’s glad the driveway around Building 1 was added because it will serve all the buildings on the property.
Rich said it’s nice to finally find an occupant for a previously vacant building. He said most of the space at Orchard Hill is occupied now, with the exception of rooms in Building 3, which was HACAP’s temporary location.