Uncle Sam covers improvements costs for Jeff. Co. homeowners

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by Chris Nagus / News 4 Investigates

KMOV.com

Posted on May 17, 2012 at 7:15 AM

Updated Thursday, May 17 at 7:37 AM

(Is This Why We're Broke?) -- How would you like a free air conditioner, furnace, windows, doors, and gutters for your home courtesy of taxpayers? 

One homeowner called News 4’s Chris Nagus o say this government funded give away messed up his house and now he wants Jefferson County to pay up again.
 
Gary Croft is fighting with Jefferson County after the county hired contractors to install an air conditioning unit, a furnace, and a roof on his mobile home.
 
“I didn't think I needed the roof but the money was there, so use it” said Croft.
 
Croft participated in a program administered by The Department of Housing and Urban Development, giving him $15,000 worth of tax payer funded improvements at no cost to him.  But after the crews installed his roof, it collapsed and he's got the pictures to prove it.  Croft told News 4 it was “shoddy work to begin with.”
 
After Croft called News 4’s Chris Nagus, he was surprised to discover just how many people were getting signed up to this government freebie.  His neighbors also got 15 thousand dollars worth of home improvements.
 
James Johnson told News 4 he was satisfied with the improvements and he's just glad it wasn't his money.  He told us he received a “new furnace, air conditioner, duct work, 200 amp provision all the way to the street, new fuse panel, new vapor barrier and insulation on half the house.”
 
Next door John Comte got a new air conditioner, front door, and windows with the HUD grant.
He says the windows were suggested by the county and it was kind of like hitting the jackpot. 
 
These homeowners say they're on disability, or in the process of applying, and couldn't afford these improvements without the tax money.  Chris Nagus went to officials at Jefferson County to find out who decides how to spend the money and why.
 
Rosie Buchanan oversees the $450,000 a year program for Jefferson County. She says they don't install anything to improve aesthetics, things like cabinets and carpet, instead they focus on health and safety issues and much of it is at the discretion of the homeowner.
 
“We don't write the scope of work, we don't tell them what they're going to get, we ask them. The homeowner is an advocate, it's their home not mine” said Buchanan.
 
As for the fiasco at Gary Croft's home, Buchanan says that's a first and it could result in some unintended consequences. Buchanan told News 4 “it could jeopardize the scope of work we can do.”
 
Since the roof collapse, Jefferson County is no longer authorizing new roofs on mobile homes.  But Buchanan says the program is still helping homeowners and despite the issues this time around, she believes it will continue to help people in the future.
 
“I think it is a good program, I believe in it, I believe it gives people who might otherwise be limited help” said Buchanan.
 
Buchanan also tells News 4 they responded immediately when the roof collapsed at Croft’s mobile home and at this point it's in the hands of the insurance company, there will be no additional tax money poured into repairs at the home.
 
If you have seen something that has you asking “Is this Why we're Broke?” and you want to know more about it, let Chris Nagus know on his KMOV Facebook page.

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