First Posted: 1/15/2009
Staff and wire report
RAEFORD -- Hoke County officials say they hope to meet with Lumbee Tribal Council officials this week to discuss what they describe as substandard work at a home renovated under a Tribal Council's housing rehabilitation program.
Hoke officials question whether work was completed under proper permits and by licensed contractors. They said Shirley Bullard's home, located about seven miles south of Raeford, violates county housing codes, in part because of a failing septic tank that wasn't repaired.
Tribal Council members say they are not to blame for problems and stand by the work. The council's lawyers contend Lumbee officials should not be faulted for needed repairs that were not addressed under the housing program.
With her home falling into disrepair, Bullard applied last year for help from the Lumbee Tribal Council's housing rehabilitation program. The program, funded by a federal Indian Housing Block Grant, makes up to $15,000 available to low-income Lumbees who need home repairs.
One of Bullard's main requests from the program was for a new septic tank, she said.
Instead, work crews installed vinyl siding, replaced wood front and side porches, and added new heating and air conditioning systems, county permits show. Bullard, 58, said the quality of work is poor and the sewage problem was ignored.
Hoke County Manager Mike Wood, Hoke County Attorney Neil Yarborough and other Hoke officials said, when they toured Bullard's home, they saw bare wires left dangling haphazardly from an electrical box in the bedroom Bullard's daughter shares with Bullard's baby grandson. In addition, the floors in two bedrooms are bare plywood that shed splinters.
Wood attended a community meeting with Tribal Council officials in Raeford on Tuesday. After the meeting, Wood said he felt optimistic that Hoke and Tribal Council officials could reach an agreement to work together in the future.
“They were very genuine in their desire to sit down and resolve this issue, and we are willing to do that,” Wood said. Wood hopes to have another meeting this week.
Wood said county officials there haven't sought any legal action.
Lumbee attorney Gregory Bullard said the council is being held responsible for work that it didn't perform. The work was done according to county regulation and proper permits were secured, he said.
Housing Director Craig McMillian said the proposal didn't ask for the sewer system to be replaced or for electrical upgrades.
“This is an unfortunate situation for Mrs. Bullard, Hoke County and the Lumbee Tribe,” he said.
“The only electrical work in the proposal was a need for a new air-conditioning unit,” McMillian said. “The lack of documented communication has exasperated this issue.”
The work was completed in April. The tribe was made aware of the problems in a newspaper article printed on Sept. 24.
“Before that, there were no documents substantiating her claim of unsatisfactory performance by the contractor,” McMillian said. “In her file, there is a signed paper by her that she would recommend the contractors' work to other citizens.”
The tribe has completed rehabilitation work to 15 homes in Hoke County over the past 18 months, tribal officials said. No other complaints have been reported.
Tribal Administrator Darlene Jacobs said the tribe's housing rehabilitation program has been “unfairly characterized.”
Jacobs said this morning that she plans to contact Wood and “try to bring some resolution to this unfortunate situation. We are going to try to keep her home from being condemned.”
The Lumbee Tribal Council received more than $10 million from Indian Housing Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this year and about $8 million last year.
The Lumbee Tribal Council expects to work on more than 240 homes this year, Jacobs said.