There isn’t an empty seat at tonight’s Durham City Council Mtg as McDougald Terrace residents have flooded the meeting to talk about the carbon monoxide concerns. Room is packed; Fire marshal only allowing in people with a seat. #abc11 pic.twitter.com/ilEZxFUIeD— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) January 7, 2020
McDougald's carbon monoxide crisis was not on the agenda - but it dominated the meeting. Durham Mayor Steve Schewel called for a moment of silence in respect for the sacrifices of displaced residents.
Durham Housing Authority CEO Anthony Scott was called to update city leaders. His first words, condolences to the families of the two infants who died in November and December.
"While the circumstances surrounding these deaths are not yet known - no parent should have to go through that," Scott said. Autopsy reports on the infants are still pending.
Carbon monoxide is just the tip of a large iceberg of McDougald complaints. Residents said there's mold, rats and bathroom sewage backups. When residents got their chance to speak, some used it to talk directly to the DHA director.
Some McDougald residents expressing skepticism about DHA’s comprehensive CO-testing plan.— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) January 7, 2020
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“What proof can we have that it’s safe to return home? We thought it was safe to live there.” #abc11 pic.twitter.com/eNrcs6Ey95
"Anthony (Scott), I'm gonna direct this at you. I don't believe you need to be fired. I believe you need to spend six months over there," McDougald resident Jontae Dunston said to cheers from the crowd.
Samantha Crowder came to the podium carrying her five-month-old infant.
"And that's what my baby is breathing in. She will be six months old on the 29th. She came home to these conditions," Crowder said.
Concerns over conditions at McDougald are not new. The I-team dug up the most-recent physical inspection reports from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Public housing facilities are scored from zero to 100. Anything below a 60 is failing. McDougald received a score of 31.
Half of DHA's 14 properties scored failing grades; Cornwallis Rd., Hoover Rd. and Oxford manor were all in the 30s.
"It is no secret that DHA feels strongly that we need to rebuild all of our public housing communities," Scott told city council.
McDougald resident Simone Douglas demanded a different answer.
"If you've known for three years that the score was under 60, why did you continue to let people live there like that," Douglas said.
DHA's federal inspection scores are some of the worst in the nation. ABC11 inquiries to federal officials at HUD were not immediately returned Monday.
In the meantime, Scott told city leaders he spoke today with Congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield about securing more federal dollars to help improve DHA properties.