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Repairs delayed for Largo housing project

Residents of a 200-unit public housing complex near Largo will have to wait for promised repairs to their living quarters.

Bids to refurbish the interiors of the aging apartments at Rainbow Village (formerly Ridgeview Apartments) came in about $250,000 more than expected, Pinellas County Housing Authority board members learned Thursday.

So instead of accepting a bid, board members decided to reject all offers and seek new bids. They plan to reassess the project, using cheaper materials in some cases and eliminating some repairs altogether.

News of the delay was a disappointment to Rainbow Village residents who were expecting work to begin next month.

"A lot of people are already packing up their stuff," said resident Marie Edwards. "One of my neighbors has everything packed but her bed."

Gareth Eich, the St. Petersburg architect in charge of the project, said after the meeting that the bids came in higher than his estimate because extra repairs were added.

Originally, Eich said, repairs were to include repainting interior walls and replacing kitchen cabinets, floor tiles and bathroom windows. Later, repairs to bathroom walls and fixtures were added, pushing the cost up by about $500 per unit.

During the meeting, board member Herbert James asked Eich if spending from $1.2-million to $1.5-million on Rainbow Village interiors was a wise investment for the housing authority. Once the repairs are made, the housing authority will have spent about $3.8-million on the complex in two years.

"Is the money we're spending within the bounds of the project? It seems like we're spending more than it's worth," James said.

Eich assured him the complex is worth much more than that.

About 160 units at Rainbow Village are leased to low-income families. Twenty units are used by community agencies such as Girls Inc. and Operation PAR for their programs. About 20 are vacant.

Residents are to move out of their apartments while renovations are under way, said JoAnne Paul, president of the tenants association.

At first, some residents objected to the renovations because of the inconvenience of moving, but lately "everybody was looking forward to it," Paul said.

She said she was disappointed to learn the project would be delayed at least two months. "We'll stay on them. We want to make sure the work gets done."

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