Interest in the City of New Orleans’ BlightStat meetings remains strong with audience chairs full and people standing by the entrance wall.
The 5th BlightStat meeting began with Winston Reid (Code Enforcement) noting that inspections were down due to the holidays. This was a recurring theme among several departments.
There were 534 structure inspections since the last meeting on December 16th. The bi-weekly target is 800. 100 lots were inspected since December 16th. The bi-weekly target is 400.
Mr. Reid spoke of the merging of the Code Enforcement & Environmental Health Departments noting “the transition continues to go well.” It was also noted that the programs used by inspectors are being loaded on to the office computers as well as the laptops they use to make syncing of the data a smoother process.
Abatements were also down due to the holidays. Cynthia Sylvain Lear noted that 1100 sites have been cleared. The Almonaster and 9th Ward corridors count as 1 each due to the lack of addresses.
200 tires were found along Michoud Blvd. These were “clean” tires. The assumption is the tires were dumped by tire stores. Ms. Lear said the City is continuing to ask tire stores for manifests to prove proper disposal.
Stategic Demolitions (houses in imminent danger of collapse) were way down because the contract expired for the experienced demolition crew.
Mention was made of the previous administration’s poor contracting process.
W.H. Reid announced that a pre-screening process has been agreed upon with Entergy in order to provide quicker decommission of properties in need of demolition.
Jeffery Hebert noted that the BlightStat powerpoint presentations will be on NOLA.gov.
In response to a question from an audience member about the Plaza in New Orleans East it was noted that there is City and State Tax Increment Financing for the Plaza in New Orleans East. The City is interested in getting the property redeveloped. The audience member complained of trucks parking there, the area is not secure, and there is dumping on the property. The audience member requested that the owner be held accountable to take better care of the blighted property.
Andy Kopplin met with Col. Rainwater of the National Guard. The City is still investigating the possibility of using National Guard troops in the fight against blight.
There will be another “Fight the Blight” event where volunteers from all over the city can participate in cleanup, fixup, and clearing of areas needing attention.
Allen Square (Technology Director) stated that Accela is a work flow management tool for Safety & Permits and Code Enforcement. It does not currently meet the needs of the users. This situation should be resolved by March 1st.
212 FEMA trailers remain in the city. 18 FEMA trailers were removed since December 16, 2010. Aggressive enforcement began January 1, 2011.
The city hand delivered notices on December 31st. There will be no exceptions or extensions. There was some discussion of having a joint FEMA/CITY patrols to confirm or deny whether a FEMA trailer is being used.
Blight court is the next step to remove the trailers. Each property owner has to be served with a court summons.
Adjudication hearings remain steady. There is a bi-weekly goal of 450 inspections. Case managers will counsel folks on getting the property repaired.
The meeting ended on a bit of a controversial note when Ms. Ann Duplessis stated that http://AskNOLA.com is a “rogue” website that the city is determined to shut down. She indicated that she was unaware of who ran the website.
Seconds after that statement Allen Square got up and immediately went over to Tim Garrett (owner of AskNOLA.com) and asked to speak to him in the hallway.
Mr. Garrett indicated that Mr. Square wanted him to donate the website to the city and that the city wants to “take control” of the website.
AskNOLA.com is a free service done by a volunteer. Many neighborhood organizations have used this website. More information about this development can be read in the link below:
Jennifer Farwell, President of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization noted that she received similar treatment from the city when she put up her not-for-profit website to help with blight reporting. You can see it at http://reportnolablight.com
The next BlightStat meeting should be Thursday, January 27th at 8 a.m.