New laundry agitates some residents

Columbia Housing Authority has completed the last of its new facilities.
Friday, March 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Last summer, Kathy Williams sat outside watching construction begin on a new laundry facility across the street, something she said would make her life easier.

Six months later, she now finders herself wiping the top of a shiny white front-load washing machine with a stainless-steel industrial dryer spinning behind her. A Columbia Housing Authority resident, she has been hired part time to keep up the building.

Williams can now dry her clothes without hanging them on a line. Although she owns a washer and a dryer in her duplex, her house wasn’t wired to handle the dryer. She’d have to string up her clothes to dry or drive to the laundry across Providence Road.

“It’s very convenient just to go across the street,” she said. “It’s a help to residents without cars.”

New facilities keep maintenance costs down

The authority completed the last of its three new laundry facilities in mid-January. Paquin Tower and Oak Towers residents already enjoyed on-site laundry machines, and now the family residences in the Trinity, Lincoln and Bear Creek areas have similar amenities.

Sometimes business can be slow, but the laundries are holding their own, said Rick Hess, acting comptroller for the authority. The agency collected $3,500 from all five facilities in January and $4,000 in February, which will cover maintenance costs.

While some residents of public housing have washers and dryers, most don’t. That’s because when the family housing was built almost four decades ago, dryers were considered a luxury, so most of the apartments and duplexes lack the proper plumbing or electricity needed for modern washers and dryers, Hess said.

He said the authority chose to build the laundry facilities instead of upgrading utilities because of maintenance costs. “We feel as people move in, instead of investing in a washer and dryer, the tendency would be to use the existing facilities,” he said.

Alternating views

Although Martha Dobbins owns a stacked washer and dryer, she was thrilled during her first visit to the new Trinity Place laundry facility. She said she hasn’t been able to use her own machines for a while because her house isn’t equipped to handle them, so she’d go to the Laundromat instead. The authority’s facility is more reasonable for her, she said.

“It helps you out financially,” Dobbins said. “They did a really good job.”

Not everyone is completely satisfied with the new facilities, though. Kima McDaniel said prices are too high for public housing residents. She said it’d be better for the authority to pay for upgrading the houses so the residents could buy their own machines.

“We still have to pay for this,” McDaniel said. “I’d rather pay for something I’m going to keep than not keep.”

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