[StBernard] Church avoids fines in Meraux

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Jun 20 22:51:13 EDT 2007

Church avoids fines in Meraux
Cleaning begins at ungutted complex Wednesday, June 20, 2007By Paul Rioux
A day after the first wheelbarrow of dried muck was hauled from the Hannan
Manor elderly living center in Meraux, the St. Bernard Parish Council tabled
a resolution Tuesday night to begin fining the Archdiocese of New Orleans up
to $24,000 a day for failing to gut the three-building complex.

An archdiocese contractor began cleaning the flood-damaged first floors of
the five-story buildings Monday.

The work began less than a week after Councilman Craig Taffaro proposed a
resolution calling on parish administrators to declare the archdiocese in
violation of an ordinance requiring Hurricane Katrina-damaged buildings to
be gutted or torn down.

"The archdiocese has acted in good faith to finally get that property
cleaned up," said Taffaro, who asked that his resolution be withdrawn. "As
long as they maintain reasonable progress, I don't think there will be any
need for fines."

Archdiocese officials had met with Taffaro on Friday to discuss a

"We wanted to reach an amicable solution rather than to go through all of
this other contentious stuff like fines," said the Rev. William Maestri, a
spokesman for the archdiocese.

The archdiocese could have faced daily fines of $100 for each of the
complex's 240 units for a total of up to $24,000 a day.

The parish condemned the complex in October but withheld fines while trying
to reach an agreement with the archdiocese to renovate it.

Taffaro said that waiting until now to begin gutting the complex allowed
mold to spread to the second and third floors.

Maestri said the archdiocese hopes to reopen the center and is seeking
financing to cover the estimated $5 million cost of renovating the upper

The decision to withdraw the resolution marked the second time the
archdiocese has avoided fines in a dispute about the condition of church
property in St. Bernard.

In February, the parish cited the archdiocese for failing to cut the grass
at St. Mark Catholic Church and School in Chalmette. But no fines were
levied because the archdiocese brought the property into compliance within
the 10-day grace period specified in the ordinance.

. . . . . . .

Paul Rioux can be reached at prioux at timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3321

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