December 16, 2019

Job number one at the PHA is to provide safe, affordable, quality housing.  This is supported in many ways, including our 29-year partnership with the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) for community policing that annually reports crime rates in PHA family housing lower than city-wide averages.  It’s also demonstrated by our 22-year, $8.3 million resolve to install fire suppression sprinklers in all 16 PHA hi-rises, buildings that 2,700 low-income households call home:


It’s popular in some circles to write off investments in buildings as simply “bricks and mortar.”  However that’s where people live.  Investments in buildings are essential to a safe home.  The PHA owns $700 million in residential real estate in which nearly 11,000 people live.  We take seriously our job to keep it safe, healthy and affordable.  That’s why, in addition to spending approximately $11 million per year on capital improvements, we also spend over $2.2 million per year (about 6% of our annual public housing operating budget) on the life-safety protections detailed below.  We believe a safe, affordable and well maintained home is the first thing residents expect of the PHA.  While there are many innovative programs and services at the PHA, including homeownership, partnerships with over 100 community-based service providers, student scholarships, community solar garden powered buildings and more, we can assure you the PHA’s highest priority is the safety of our residents, and keeping the buildings encompassing their homes safe, affordable and well maintained.  The following are details of our important “behind the scenes” life-safety work:  

  • The PHA spends over $800,000/year for our 29 year community policing partnership with the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD), plus our 23 year Officer in Residence program where 16 SPPD officers live in 16 public housing hi-rise, in addition the PHA has limited private security guard contracts.  The Officer in Residence program provides a law enforcement presence in public housing hi-rises to help deter crime in the buildings and their immediate surrounding neighborhoods.  Officers park their police squad car on PHA property during their off-duty hours, schedule regular office hours for resident contact, attend resident meetings and provide information and assistance to staff and residents related to illegal activity in and around the building.
  • Fire suppression sprinklers have been installed in every hallway, common area, and apartment in the PHA’s 16 hi-rises.  Approximately 6 to 8 fire sprinkler heads exist within each apartment and are located near the kitchen, living room, bedrooms and some closets.  (Normal daily activity poses no risk to unintended activation of a fire sprinkler.  To ensure the fire sprinklers function as intended, residents are advised not to hang any item from a fire sprinkler or its piping.)
  • Fire sprinkler equipment is inspected and tested twice each year at 19 PHA buildings (16 hi-rises, two community centers and W.A. Boss Central Administrative Office - CAO) by a licensed fire sprinkler testing contractor to confirm proper operation in the event of a fire.  These inspections occur within the stairwells and mechanical room where fire pumps, pump controllers, standpipe control valves and similar control equipment exist.  Commercial kitchen range hoods with fire suppression devices are inspected twice per year.  The PHA pays $33,500/year for the fire sprinkler inspections and kitchen range hood cleaning plus the cost to make necessary repairs.
  • Fire alarm equipment is inspected and tested twice each year at 20 PHA buildings (16 hi-rises, three community centers and the CAO) by a licensed fire alarm testing contractor to confirm proper operation in the event of a fire.  All fire alarm components including smoke/heat detectors and notification devices are tested throughout the building.  At our hi-rises, the fire alarm testing contractor enters every apartment twice each year to test the smoke detectors and nurse-call pull stations.  All nurse call equipment is tested twice each year.  The PHA pays $71,200/year for these inspections plus the cost to make necessary repairs.
  • Fire extinguishers in the hi-rises and community centers are inspected monthly by trained PHA maintenance personnel.  Each year, PHA maintenance personnel receive training by a licensed fire extinguisher testing contractor to obtain the skills necessary to perform a monthly inspection of this equipment.  Fire extinguishers in the townhome developments are inspected annually by PHA maintenance personnel and replaced when necessary with a new fire extinguisher or one that has been certified by a licensed fire extinguisher testing contractor.  The cost of this inspection and testing work varies annually based upon the type, age and condition of the fire extinguishers in need of service or replacement.
  • Emergency generators are inspected and tested monthly at the 16 PHA hi-rise buildings.  Each emergency generator is started and inspected to confirm its operation.  Once each year, the electrical power for each hi-rise is shutdown at the main distribution panel to witness and test the transfer of power generation to the emergency generator.  At the same time, the fire alarm, fire sprinkler and elevator equipment are tested by licensed contractors to confirm the functionality of this equipment under power provided by the emergency generator.  The PHA pays $55,700/year for these inspections plus the cost to make necessary repairs.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors in hi-rise boiler rooms, laundry rooms and garages are inspected twice each year as part of the fire alarm inspections noted above.  Combination smoke/CO detectors are located within the Mt. Airy hi-rise apartment where gas stoves exist.  These combination smoke/CO detectors at Mt. Airy hi-rise are tested in conjunction with the fire alarm equipment.  Combination smoke/CO detectors have been installed in every PHA townhome unit and single-family home.  The combination detectors in townhomes and single-family homes are tested annually by PHA maintenance personnel and upon the completion of each repair within the dwelling unit.
  • Our elevator service contractor provides 24/7 response to any issue with our elevators.  All elevators are tested monthly to confirm proper operation.  Our contract provides complete monthly maintenance and repairs at a cost of $20,665/month or $247,980/year.
  • Our primary HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning) service contractor provides 24/7 monitoring of the hi-rise and community center HVAC equipment connected to the PHA’s Energy Management System.  In addition to the PHA’s own personnel, the PHA has contracted pipefitters on staff and utilizes other licensed HVAC contractors to maintain and service this equipment.  The PHA pays in excess of $1 million dollars each year to service, maintain and repair/replace HVAC equipment throughout PHA properties.
  • Once each year the PHA hires a licensed plumbing contractor to inspect, test and repair its Reduced Pressure Zone (RPZ) Valves or back-flow preventers to confirm proper operation.  These valves are necessary to prevent stagnant water found in fire suppression systems, irrigation systems or boilers from flowing back into the drinking water supply lines.  The PHA pays $13,000/year for the inspection and repair of these valves.
  • PHA maintenance personnel perform an annual preventative maintenance inspection of every dwelling unit (4273 units) to assess the condition of the unit and identify repair needs.  During this inspection maintenance staff inspect and test smoke detectors or combination smoke/CO detectors annually.  Faulty detectors are replaced.  In addition, PHA on-site management staff conduct 4,273 annual housekeeping inspections.  During such inspections, staff address housekeeping standards and resident compliance.  In addition to monitoring the cleanliness of a unit, staff assess if there are other critical issues such as pest control, work orders, city code violations and fire hazards.  PHA personnel are trained on health and safety measures that include checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, furnace filter quality, fire suppression systems, improper storage of items that may pose a fire hazard, dryer venting, and abating moisture issues.  Our annual inspections are not only completed for lease compliance purposes, but have become a teaching tool for residents on safety measures.  The goal is to decrease the risk for potential hazards that could negatively impact not only the occupant of that unit, but also residents in neighboring apartments.
  • In addition to the PHA staff inspections and contractor testing noted above, maintenance personnel confirm the operation of dwelling unit smoke detectors upon the completion of every routine repair within a PHA dwelling unit.  The PHA completes an average of 30,000 work orders for routine repairs each year.

Thank you for your attention to this summary.  While challenges and unforeseen circumstances are also part of our daily life, we wanted to take a moment to offer detailed assurances that our mission of providing safe, affordable, quality housing is job number one for the 235 dedicated and hardworking employees of the PHA. 


Jon Gutzmann 


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