This was the seventeenth 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.
BELOW ARE NOTES FROM THE JUNE 30th BLIGHTSTAT MEETING
Attendance from the public at the BlightStat meetings remains low due to information from and about the meetings being readily available. Mr. O.J. Wise announced he and his wife have a baby due around Christmas. Mr. Jeff Hebert did not attend the meeting as he is on vacation.
The meeting began with a report from Mr. W.H. Reid noting that inspections were down a bit with 900 inspections this bi-weekly period due to vacation and sick days. While this bi-weekly period was down a bit, the Code Enforcement Department has already done over 20,000 inspections just this year.
Ms. Kristin Illarmo and Mr. Reid are constantly working toward getting more hearings done.
Mr. Andy Kopplin suggested that inspections may not now be a priority as demolitions and hearings need more focus. Resources need to be moved around to have balance in progress.
Mr. Reid stated his department is looking at other “tools in the toolbox” to get things done.
There was some discussion about how FEMA inspections are categorized.
Mr. Reid noted that backlogged inspections continue to be a problem.
Grass inspections are a priority during the summer growing season.
There was some continued discussion about the backlog. Mr. Reid summed up the discussion by stating, “Bottom line… we’ll take care of it.”
Ms. Illarmo said that Ms. Brenda Breaux is organizing a volunteer day for city attorneys to help with hearings. The Accela system, while better, continues to thwart the progress of hearings.
There is a specific issue with photos being attached to hearing files.
Ms. Illarmo and Ms. Breaux are working on a write-in form for judgments which is a production of the actual judgment at the time of the hearing so it can be mailed out the same day or the next day.
Mr. Kopplin noted that this will make the hearings more efficient.
Ms. Breaux will have Asst. City Attorneys come in on two Saturdays. Inspectors will also be brought in from the field to help with case management.
Mr. Kopplin demanded a plan to make more hearings happen whether it involves contracting out or whatever. We will be hard on the problem and soft on the people. We will solve whatever the problem is.
Mr. Kopplin said he will approach the Bar Association for assistance.
Ms. Illarmo gave a report on hearings. 24% of the hearings were found guilty, 20% complied. A discussion ensued about the mechanics of the reports. Accela continues to be a problem along with the unavailability of a color printer for photos.
Mr. Reid continued the meeting with a report on demolitions. The process is moving smoothly right now. Mr. Wise reviewed the strategic demolition process shown on a flow chart. A discussion ensued on the process.
Many more people are appealing the decision to demolish their property. Mr. Wolcott reviewed FEMA funded demolitions stating that the process is going well. Mr. Wolcott is working on funding sources to keep the process moving. Abestos inspections and abatements was a sticking point that has been worked out.
Mr. Kopplin asked if there are unresolved bottlenecks. Mr. Wolcott noted that owners appealing the demolitions slows the process.
Mr. Kopplin asked for more details on things that aren’t working so those problems can be solved.
Mr. Kopplin stated that Mr. Horan of Safety & Permits indicated that all of the FEMA trailers should be removed by August 1st.
Mr. Keith Ferrolet proudly reviewed the lot clearing process stating that the process is moving along smoothly and that the City does charge for every lot they cut.
Ms. Cynthia Sylvain Lear noted that there are still large groups of volunteers to help with lot clearing. Mr. Kopplin noted that Mr. Hebert is working on getting volunteers to help maintain the properties stay cut after the City does it.
Ms. Lear reported that big successes are being made with enforcement of tire and other dumping. The new Sanitation Ranger is doing well. NOPD and LDEQ are working on the dumping problem as well.
Ms. Lear asked that everyone register for recycling carts at http://recycle.nola.gov
28,000 recycling carts have been delivered to date. Mr. Kopplin noted that as the Sanitation Department does “house counts” and other non-standard duties that the numbers on regular duties will go down due to finite resources.
Mr. Myles Granderson gave a report on Sheriff Sale files. The files received remains around 250 each biweekly period with a consistent number of 60 cases accepted each bi-weekly period.
While Mr. Kopplin is always involved in the meetings, he had a more intense “take charge” attitude reflecting not only his own but the public’s frustration with the progress of eradicating blight.
Mr. Granderson continued with a lien foreclosures report noting that the City is continue to reap financial benefits from enforcement. Total year to date collections from the city getting aggressive with foreclosure on those who refuse to take care of their property is $352,174.83.
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson reviewed the progress of sales of NORA properties. Ms. Wilkerson noted that people are bidding on the properties from six different states. The current focus for NORA is to sell the “best of the inventory” first to get things moving.
Mr. Wise inquired about people who are bidding from other states and cities. Are they speculators? Ms. Wilkerson noted that these are homeowners because they sign an agreement that the high bidder will keep the property for a minimum of three years.
Questions from the audience were answered.
PRC and National Trust are organizing a Sherrif Sale instruction course tentatively scheduled for July 28. NORA is also having training sessions.
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
8:00-9:30 AM CST
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117