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Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Nov 16 20:34:43 EST 2006

St. Bernard razes ungutted structures
Voluntary demolition process continues for homes, businesses
Thursday, November 16, 2006
By Karen Turni Bazile

St. Bernard Parish has started demolishing homes and businesses it condemned
because they remained ungutted and unsecured more than 14 months after
Hurricane Katrina, officials said.

Unified Recovery Group, or URG, the contractor handling demolitions and
debris collection in the parish, also continues to tear down the homes of
residents who requested voluntary demolitions, Parish Chief Administrative
Officer Dave Peralta said.

Peralta said URG has razed about a dozen structures left ungutted and
unsecured by owners. Peralta said parish crews began a street-by-street
survey this week to identify all the remaining ungutted structures, which
will be brought before the Parish Council for condemnation.

In all, the parish expects to have to tear down some 3,000 homes and
businesses that it has condemned.

"It's simply unfair for those who have returned to have to live next to
houses that, after 14 months, the owners still have not taken the
responsibility of cleaning their property," Peralta said.

As of last week, URG had demolished 2,590 structures, and there are more in
the pipeline from the parish. Dave Curry, URG's operations liaison, said his
company has 1,500 homes targeted for demolition that should be completed
within the next two months. That total includes both homes where owners have
asked the parish for demolition, as well as condemned homes and businesses.

In addition to forced demolitions, there are still about 1,000 voluntary
demolitions being held up for myriad reasons.

To hasten voluntary demolitions and clear regulatory hurdles, the Parish
Council recently condemned 900 homes that owners had requested be demolished
but the parish couldn't approve the requests because they were bogged down
with ownership issues, such as successions. There are also 900 pending
voluntary demolition requests by owners in the legally defined footprint of
the Murphy Oil spill that are awaiting clearance. Of those, only 300 owners
have decided to sign a second set of legal releases required because the
property is tied up in a class action suit.

As parish workers place large yellow stickers on the most recent condemned
properties, owners will have 10 days to appeal under local law if they don't
want their structures torn down.

The appeals have to be made in person in the parish Office of Community
Development on the second floor of the parish government complex at 8201 W.
Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette. Before a property can be removed from the
condemnation list, the owner must agree to cut the grass and to clean, gut
and secure homes within seven days.

There is no cost to appeal, but anyone who appeals after the 10-day notice
period that starts with the date of the posting of the condemnation sticker
would be responsible for costs of pre-demolition work that includes asbestos
testing, Peralta said.

Owners on the condemnation list who don't respond may have to pay 10 percent
of demolition cost if the home or business isn't razed before Dec. 31 when
the Federal Emergency Management Agency is scheduled to stop reimbursing the
parish 100 percent of the demolition cost. About 200 residents who have
requested demolition since an Oct. 15 parish deadline may have to pay the 10
percent as well.

Also, within two weeks, the parish will begin spraying defoliant on
properties with high grass, and officials also are receiving bids on grass
cutting services to mow derelict properties. Those owners whose neglect
forces the parish to spray weed killer or to cut their grass will be fined
$300 each time that will be placed as a lien if it goes unpaid, Peralta

. . . . . . .

Karen Turni Bazile can be reached at kturni at timespicayune.com or (504)

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