DANVILLE – Initial discussions have started about possibly merging the Danville and Vermilion County housing authorities.

What this could mean for public housing and Section 8 residents, staff and the county remains unknown. Jaclyn Vinson, executive director of the Danville Housing Authority, said the initial discussion by the DHA board is “really a fact-finding mission.”

She said the financials and other aspects would have to be reviewed. Vinson said it was “mutual interest” in exploring what could happen with a merger.

She said the first steps would be to see if such a merger is possible. The U.S. Department of Housing Authority would have to approve a merger.

“Nothing is being decided …,” she said about Thursday’s board meeting.

She said they will look at the benefits and go through everything to see if it should be pursued.

“We don’t know at this point,” Vinson said, adding that they also want to make sure they are not duplicating services in jurisdictions.

The DHA is dealing with financial restraints. Positions were cut at the DHA under a new organization chart and partly due to the housing authority losing a little more than half a million in operating subsidy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development due to vacancies for its 2016 budget, DHA officials have said.

The Vermilion County Housing Authority also had financial issues in recent years.

Tony Hasbargen, former director of the Vermilion County Housing Authority, was fired by the Vermilion County Housing Authority Board in 2013 after allegations of improper spending surfaced. An audit found several financial discrepancies. The housing authority has operated with a budget of about $1.4 million to $1.5 million annually.

New Vermilion County Housing Authority executive director, R.M. Jackson, who was hired last month, said her understanding was the Vermilion County “board of commissioners was having a discussion with that board,” she said of a possible merger with the DHA. This discussion was prior to her arrival, Jackson added. She had no other comment.

The DHA was formed by the city’s request in 1939. The authority has about an $11 million annual budget with $50 million in assets. The DHA has about 528 public housing units and 620 available Section 8 vouchers.

The Vermilion County Housing Authority also is a governmental entity of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. It is located in Rossville and was created in 1946. Its mission is serving Vermilion County. It has a low-income public housing and housing choice voucher program for Vermilion County. There are 108 vouchers and 212 public housing units in Hoopeston, Rossville, Georgetown, Tilton, Allerton and Fairmount. Vermilion County Housing Authority vouchers have been in Danville, too.

Jackson said they also have a regular waiting list.

There was discussion in the past of the DHA offering management services to the Vermilion County Housing Authority. Other cities have merged their authorities.

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