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History of Frontier Housing by Ray Leonard

Donald Grant,Dexter SealIn May of 1975, Mayor Donald J. Grant of Dexter called a meeting of some of the older residents of Dexter to a luncheon at the Dexter High School. The purpose of the meeting was to determine if there was an interest for a senior citizens housing project in Dexter. The opinion of the group was to canvas the residents of the Village of Dexter to determine the need of such a project. Ray Leonard, a retired Postmaster, was appointed by the Mayor to do this. One hundred sixty-three signatures were obtained in favor and only one opposed to the idea. The one in opposition said it would be another burden on the taxpayers of the village. Herbert Coombe, Richard Haller, and Ray Leonard were appointed as a committee to see if an appropriate site for a housing project was available in Dexter. Sites were investigated on outer Grove, Brown, William, and West Grove Streets. After much discussion by the committee with Mayor Grant, the property on West Grove Street owned by Raymond H. Smith was thought to be the best location for a housing project. Ray Leonard was appointed to meet with Mr. Smith to see if he would sell the property for this purpose. Mr. Smith agreed to sell his property on West Grove Street for $1.00 for the project.

The next step was to form an organization to proceed in the matter. Attorney Glenn Larmouth of Watertown, who was on the Board of Directors of the Dexter Bank and was also the Village of Dexter’s attorney, was contacted and he offered to do the legal business for the project at no cost. A public meeting was held by residents of Dexter, and Mayor Grant was elected President, Raymond H. Smith as Vice President, Ray Leonard as Secretary, Richard Haller as Treasurer, and Herbert Coombe as Director. The firm of Moran and Yaussi of Watertown was selected as architect for the project, and agreed to draw plans and proceed with their part at no cost if financing could not be obtained.

An application to the state was made to establish a housing authority which could apply for a grant to fund the project. We found out that it was too late in the year to be brought before the State Legislature, so Attorney Larmouth made an application for incorporation as a not-for-profit organization, and applied to the Farmers Home Administration for financing. We were incorporated as the Frontier Housing Corporation of Dexter Inc. After two years of work and plans, with the assistance of Alex Velto of Watertown, who had a great deal of experience in helping organizations in securing financing, President Grant arranged a meeting with the Farmers Home Administration in Syracuse to present our plans for a senior citizens housing project in Dexter. After a great deal of investigation by Farmers Home, we finally received a promise of $443,500 to build five structures containing twenty apartments, with three one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom apartment in each building.

After meeting with various contractors, Pratt Street Corp. Inc. of Watertown was secured to build the project. As the project developed we found out that we were running low on money to complete the project. Through the recommendation of Nathan Holloway of the Dexter Bank, the corporation was allowed to borrow $7,000 in order to complete the apartments.

On August 26, 1978, the project was dedicated as Smith Hills Apartments, in memory of the family of Raymond H. Smith, whose generous donation of the land made the project possible. The project was the first of its kind in northern New York, and the tenants in the project had to be senior citizens or handicapped persons.

One of the applications for an apartment was from Julius Dingman and his wife, who were former residents of Dexter. Mr. Dingman had a great deal of experience in business, finances, and upkeep of property. He was secured as resident manager of the project. Mr. Dingman attended each monthly meeting of Frontier Housing Corporation and gave a detailed report on the operation of Smith Hills Apartments. All of the twenty apartments were filled as soon as completed, and a large number of applications were still on file. As each member of the housing board had put in so many hours of work to see this project completed and in operation, without a cent of pay for their work, it was a great relief when all units were running smoothly and the tenants were happy.

In about June of 1979 two men came into town and wanted to examine the Secretary’s and Treasurer’s books. When asked who they were, all they said was that they were sent from Farmers Home Administration. We found out later that they were professors from Columbia University hired by Farmers Home to investigate our operation. After going over our books, they interviewed every business place in Dexter, and as many individuals as they were able for two days. They would not say why they were sent here, or give us any information. After some time President Grant began to get letters and telephone calls from Farmers Home asking the Frontier Housing Corporation to build a second project. The Board of Directors said no, as we could not imagine another session as we had gone through to obtain Smith Hills. In the fall of 1979 Farmers Home made an offer to Frontier, to provide $1,250,000 if we would build a second project. This would be a first in New York State and one of six in the U.S. under the regulations of town projects. The tenants were to be part seniors and part young low income families. After so many calls and letters, President Grant asked the Board to see what might be done in respect to a second phase of housing. By this time the Frontier Housing Corporation had over fifty applications for apartments on the waiting list. After a number of meetings of the Board, it was decided to contact Mr. Moran to see if he would draw plans for a new housing project, under the same conditions he did for Smith Hills, with the understanding that if the project did not jell, he would not receive pay for his effort. He agreed to work with the Frontier Housing Corporation the same as before. Poole Memorial Site PlanThe first two sets of plans that were drawn were rejected by the Board. The Board had discussed numerous sites for the second project, and Ray Leonard was appointed to interview Ivan Poole about the property he owned at 600 William Street in the Village, comprised of springs, low land, brush and a building Mr. Poole used for storage of equipment for his gas business. Mr. Moran thought that the site could be developed into a project. After our thoughts were explained to Mr. Poole, he agreed to sell the land to us for $1.00 as did Mr. Smith for the Smith Hills Project.

About this time of events, Raymond Smith decided it was time to retire in a warmer climate, and dispose of his home in Dexter and move to Florida, so he submitted his resignation as Vice President on the Board. The Secretary, Ray Leonard, was elected Vice President and Doris Kostyk, an advisor to the Board, was elected Secretary. The third set of plans Mr. Moran drew seemed to be more appropriate for the Poole property, and consisted of six one-bedroom, twenty-six two-bedroom, and four three-bedroom apartments. Four of the buildings were to be one story and two were to be two stories. The plans called for a laundry room and a community room for public meetings and gatherings for the tenants of the project. Also there was to be a small garage to hold a mower and snow blower. About the first of November that year Mr. Moran died while hunting, and Mr. Yaussi, his partner, took over finishing the plans. The project was to be known as the Poole Memorial Housing Project in honor of Mr. Poole who gave the land.

A meeting was scheduled with the Farmers Home Administration office in Syracuse, to present the plans and try to secure the financing of the project. President Grant, Alex Velto, the contractor Robert Purcell, Garland Jumps, and Ray Leonard went to Syracuse. On arriving there we were told that the architect for Farmers Home was leaving that day for vacation and it would be impossible to review our plans for at least another month. After the great diplomat, Mr. Grant, conferred with the architect a few minutes, the plans were approved, papers were signed, and we were given permission to start the project the next day, which Mr. Purcell did. We received permission to fill the thirty-four apartments with sixteen apartments of senior citizens, and eighteen low income families. In one hour from the time we had left the car, we were on our way home. Before we could accept tenant applications, we had to secure a resident manager for the project, to handle the financial and management duties. Applicants for the position were interviewed, and John Doldo Jr. of Watertown was deemed to be better for the position, as he had more experience financially than the others. Glenn Dillenback, one of the applicants for an apartment, was secured as the resident manager, under the supervision of Mr. Doldo, and the Board of Directors. Buildings A, B, C and D, the one story buildings containing sixteen apartments were all filled with senior citizens and the other eighteen apartments were filled with low income families.

In the fall of 1980, Poole Memorial Park was dedicated with a grand celebration, with our State Senator, State Assemblyman, as well as all of the County, Town and local officers attending as speakers, praising the completion of the second housing project in the Village of Dexter.

Frontier Housing
Frontier Housing Corporation
321 Lakeview Drive
P.O. Box 56
Dexter, NY 13634

Phone: (315) 639-3940

TDD: (800) 662-1220

Fax: (315) 639-4771

Email:
info@frontierhousingcorporation.com



Executive Director:



Project Manager:



Office Hours:
Monday - Friday:
8:30 AM - 4:00 PM

Closed for lunch between:
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM