What is O’Connell trying to take back?


At the Feb. 27, 2020, council meeting Councilperson O’Connell made a comment that they were “taking” Harbor Tower back when talking about the new proposed apartment complex. This isn’t the first time she has made this comment.

Being an employee of the Escanaba Housing Commission (Harbor Tower) for 28 years, I have firsthand knowledge

The planning to build a HUD public housing complex started in the late 60s. It opened in 1970. To live at the tower you had to be 62 years old or handicapped/disabled and meet the income guidelines. It never was just for elderly. In fact, the only original resident left at the tower today was admitted because of a disability. The five employees were city of Escanaba employees. The mayor, with council consensuses, appoints the board. This is the standard for all public housing boards.

HUD, in the 90s changed occupancy guidelines to include near elderly and the single person. Each commission set their own preferences. Now anyone 18 and over who met the income guidelines can apply.

In 2000 the board of commissioners wanted to give the union employees a step increase. The city manager said that could not be done. There were discussions between the board president and city manager. The city manager suggested separating from the city. In 2001 the Escanaba Housing Commission separated its employees from the city of Escanaba and from that date the employees weren’t city employees. The city never paid those employees wages or benefits ever. They did the payroll, but the commission reimbursed the city for wages and benefits.

I’ve heard that the city owns Harbor Tower. The city has never owned Harbor Tower. HUD does. The only thing the city does is appoint the board. Every commission must have one commissioner that is a tenant of the complex but are allowed more especially in a small community where volunteers are hard to find. There is a tenant living there now that applied almost a year ago but has never been appointed.

In the public and private sector, landlords must follow certain rules and guidelines and cannot discriminate, even if you don’t think they meet your standards of a good tenant. The last thing you want is to have Fair Housing knocking on your door.

Ms O’Connell what are you trying to take back?

The 2019 low income levels for Delta County can be for two people $24,450-$39,150 and four people from $30,550-$48,900. The higher the income, the higher the rent. Ms. O’Connell also made the comment “We’re about to put in a mid-to-upper- level hotel and a low-income housing project in the same area.” That is a ridiculous statement. The hotel will be sharing a space with an empty pigeon infested store, a empty bank, all are a lot closer to the hotel than the apartment complex. I am in favor of more housing if the need is there.

I think Harbor Tower looks great after 50 years. Go take a look yourself

Judi LaCosse



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