[StBernard] Deadline to move out of FEMA trailers looms in St. Bernard

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun Dec 14 09:59:12 EST 2008

Deadline to move out of FEMA trailers looms in St. Bernard
by Chris Kirkham, The Times-Picayune
Saturday December 13, 2008, 10:38 PM
The shower stops working. The refrigerator goes out. But for better or
worse, George Dickinson calls the white FEMA trailer on his Arabi lawn

As a residential contractor, construction work on other people's homes has
slowed progress on his own gutted two-story on Perrin Drive. Visits to his
wife and two boys in Picayune, Miss., are rare, as fears of vandalism keep
him mostly tied to the property at night.

"Working full time and rebuilding this isn't working real well," he said. "I
get home, and I don't want to see it anymore."

By next month, Dickinson and more than 700 other lingering trailer dwellers
in St. Bernard Parish will have to come up with an alternative. He plans to
fast-track renovations on an upstairs bedroom so he can live in his house.

Others have asked the parish for more time.

Monday is the last day for St. Bernard residents to file for extensions to
keep FEMA trailers on residential property. Without an extension, residents
must remove trailers by Jan. 21.

The sunset on trailers is an effort by parish officials to cut back on some
of the most visible reminders of Hurricane Katrina's devastation in St.
Bernard. As of last week, there were 702 FEMA trailers remaining in St.
Bernard, down from as many as 7,241 in the months after Katrina, not
including the trailers in 11 group sites across the parish.

"We're really just trying to effect a bit of normalcy," said St. Bernard
Parish Councilman George Cavignac. "Still, understandably, we have people
who are engaged in finally settling their Road Home payments. We're not
approaching it from an onerous standpoint where we're just booting people
off their land."

To apply for an extension, residents must fill out a form that states why
they need the extension. Depending on the reason, whether it be Road Home or
construction delays, the owner must provide documentation to support the
need to have a trailer on site.

If a house is under construction, the owner must provide the parish with a
detailed construction schedule. After the deadline, the parish will cut off
power and utilities to any trailers that have not been granted an extension.

St. Bernard is one of the last parishes in the metropolitan area to still
allow trailers. New Orleans and St. Tammany Parish enacted deadlines earlier
this year, and Jefferson Parish did it last year.

After Jan. 21, the parish would resume enforcing the ordinance banning
recreational vehicles, such as trailers, from being parked on residential
lots. Violators can be fined up to $100 a day or 90 days in jail.

Frustrated by unreliable subcontractors and more than a year's worth of
construction delays, Anthony Mendoza applied for an extension last week. He
rues the thought of more time in the trailer.

"It was wearing on me the second week I was in it," he reflected.

But the thought of leaving his Arabi house unguarded outweighs any
discomfort. A neighbor's in-progress home has already been ransacked for
copper pipes, and Mendoza said he has chased burglars off his property
several times.

Dickinson said he would rather live in an unfinished house than have to
answer to the parish for his construction schedule. He'll give up the
trailer next month.

"I've got to work on their houses to put money into this house," he said.
"If work's out there and I can make a dollar, I'm going to do it."

Dickinson plans to take a break from other construction jobs over the next
few weeks to put in carpet and insulation in an upstairs bedroom.

His pit bull, Rose, will stay in the bare-bones downstairs, still stripped
to wooden beams.

The parish posted fliers on trailers across the parish notifying owners of
the deadline. Forms for the trailer extension should be mailed to the Office
of Community Development at 8201 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, LA 70043.
To request a trailer de-activation from FEMA, residents should call

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