Photo and article by Charlie London
This was the eleventh BlightStat meeting where the public was invited to attend.
The City continues to march toward its goal of eradicating 10,000 blighted properties within three years. City departments that can help with this process meet every two weeks for a “BlightStat” meeting.
Goals have been set for each department and a presentation is made at each meeting to show how each department is doing toward meeting those goals.
The meeting started with an announcement of “Walk the Block” which is taking place April 9th from 9 am until 2 pm. This Jerico Road Episcopal Housing initiative aims to survey property conditions in the Central City area.
The Code Enforcement library was also announced. You can check it out at: http://www.nola.gov/RESIDENTS/Code-Enforcement/Code-Enforcement-Document-Library Ms. Kristin Illarmo stated the goal is to have the Code Enforcement library updated every two weeks.
Code enforcement inspections were up this reporting period due to a full staff being present according to Mr. David Grunberg, Field Supervisor for Code Enforcement. Mr. Winston Reid was unable to attend this meeting.
Mr. Grunberg noted that some pictures and reports are being rejected by the Accela system when code inspectors enter them. Mr. Doug Leper noted that the laptops seem to be the problem. He stated that “false rejections” are being tracked to find out whether the problem is the Accela system or the user. Mr. Leper indicated that the ability to geocode properties as they are entered into the system may be in the system some time in the future.
He also stated that complaints are supposed to be assigned to an inspector at the time of the intake call. Ms. Nadine Fletcher is the manager of intake calls. Calls are being tracked by time of day, area reported and more.
One problem is that duplicate compaints on the same property are being assigned to multiple inspectors working the same area. The reason appears to be the way intake operators enter the address. One may enter Esplanade and the other enters Esplanade Avenue. The system shows this as two different addresses.
Mr. Allen Square indicated that eventually the intake operators will have a drop down list of all the streets in New Orleans on their computer screen. Additional training may be necessary.
Ms. Kristin Illarmo indicated that hearing counts are down. She said there will be hearing officer training on May 2nd and the hearing officers will be sworn in the same day. Ms. Brenda Breaux indicated that there will be 27 hearing officers so the amount of hearings should go up significantly.
Mr. Andy Kopplin noted that preparation for hearings is a huge task. He asked Ms. Illarmo for a plan to coordinate preparation so that resources could be allocated.
Ms. Illarmo indicated that case counts are down due to a change in policy and that one case with 78 properties was counted as one. She indicated that there will be follow-up training on depositions for hearings.
Mr. Hillarie Carrere indicated that the 1st large apartment complex on Curran Place in New Orleans East has been demolished. The 2nd large apartment complex to be demolished is on Alcee Fortier drive off of Chef Hwy. He indicated that the historical review requirement seems to be the bottleneck to getting properties demolished.
157 FEMA trailers remain in the city. Mr. Paul May broke the numbers down by Council District with District D (51) and District E (38) having the most FEMA trailers that still need to be removed.
Environmental Health inspections of lots appears to be working. More lots are being cut and are in compliance. This may change as the summer growing season approaches.
Ms. Cynthia Sylvain Lear indicated that the Sanitation Department has been working the 9th Ward, Uptown, and Algiers. They picked up 476 tires this reporting period and have picked up 5,000 tires since January 1, 2011. She further indicated that the 1st District Quality of Life officer has been very active and has helped close down tire operators who do not have manifests showing where tires were disposed.
Ms. Lear also mentioned the Keep New Orleans Beautiful program. She is the Director of this operation as well. Ms. Lear indicated that grants are available for beautification and recycling. She announced too that volunteers are needed for the litter index which is needed to get New Orleans certified with the Keep America Beautiful campaign.
Mr. Channing Warner talked about Sheriff Sales and noted that of 267 files, 60 have been selected for Sheriff sale. The properties are put up for auction at 2/3rds of the appraised value. He noted that 4941 Sherwood would be going up at $40,000 and 5425 North Derbigny would have an initial auction price of $5,000.
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson stated that NORA (New Orleans Redevelopment Authority) sold 3.5 million dollars worth of property at a recent auction where 94 properties were sold. There was a large turnout with a great cross section of regular folks in addition to professional real estate buyers. Ms. Lear indicated the auction was “standing room only”.
Ms. Alice Martin indicated that better education for potential buyers may be needed. Ms. Wilkerson indicated that properties bought at auction must be closed on in 30 days with construction significantly completed within 365 days. The exterior of the property must be code compliant within 90 days of the purchase. Mr. Oliver Wise requested a report on the buyers at the auction.
Ms. Brenda Breaux met previously with Mr. Jeff Hebert and Mr. Doug Leper about strategic Sheriff sales.
New Orleans’ Fight Against Blight appears to be moving in the right direction.
The next BlightStat meeting will take place Thursday, April 21st at 8 a.m on the 9th floor of the Amoco Building at 1340 Poydras Street.
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
8:00-9:30 AM CST
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117