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Housing chief fears loss of pay for security

The executive director of the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority said he has written to federal officials protesting possible cuts by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in some programs.

One of Larry Gaster's chief concerns is a grant to fight drug use in public housing that has helped pay Lucas County sheriff's deputies and Toledo police to concentrate patrols at public housing facilities.

“It's one of the programs which turned this housing authority around,” Mr. Gaster said.

He said that about 10 years ago LMHA was considered a troubled authority, but now is listed as “high performing” by HUD.

He said the authority has had an agreement with the two law enforcement agencies to concentrate patrols, and the agency pays a total of about $350,000 to help defray costs.

“As it is, we are proactive with crime prevention, but we may have to go back to being reactive with crime control,” Mr. Gaster said.

In his letter, he said that in addition to covering police costs, the rest of the $500,000 to $700,000 the agency has gotten each year has gone to drug prevention and intervention programs, youth sports, and tutorial programs.

He told the LMHA board yesterday the federal government's position is that housing authorities should concentrate on housing and leave tasks such as drug enforcement to other agencies.

Mr. Gaster said he understands the theory, but reducing drug use and trafficking and providing an increased police presence has enhanced the quality of life of people in the agency's complexes.

Ken Perry, chief sheriff's deputy, said Sheriff James Telb will try to continue to help LMHA and added that he hopes the cuts don't get through the budget process.

“I can remember when I was a police officer and how some of those projects were,” he said. “LMHA has done a terrific of cleaning things up and providing safe housing. Whatever happens, I'm sure we won't walk away from them.”

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