by Charlie London
This was the eighteenth 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 July 14th BLIGHTSTAT MEETING
Mr. Oliver Wise (Performance and Accountability) began the meeting and was the master of ceremonies as he has been for every meeting.
Ms. Cynthia Sylvain-Lear gave a report on illegal dumping sites and tires removed throughout the city. The City has approved some overtime to help get dump sites cleared. Ms. Lear asked that everyone continue to ask their friends and neighbors to apply for their recycling carts.
Mr. David Grunberg gave a report for code enforcement. Inspections are down a bit but code enforcement inspectors remain busy and the grass cutting season is in full swing. Mr Andrew Kopplin, Mr. Jeff Hebert, and Mr. David Grunberg discussed the backlog. The backlog was emphasized as being a priority. The City is way ahead with inspections.
Mr. Kopplin suggested tracking reinspections and those inspections not yet closed out. Ms. Kristin Illarmo noted that reinspections for cases have to be done 10 days before the hearing and cannot be done earlier. Ms. Illarmo gave a report on hearings noting that the number of hearings increased to 153 this bi-weekly period. Undesirable resets were also up a bit but consistent work is being done on blight hearings. Ms. Illarmo also addressed the large backlog of hearings. The Code Enforcement Department has a plan and will be adding about 100 cases each bi-weekly period. The quality of the cases is emphasized as is getting the judgments signed immediately after the hearing.
The Code Enforcement Department is working with volunteers and Job1 who sort mail. Code Enforcement is working with HR to fill vacant staff people. The department needs clerical people and someone to drive the mail to the post office. Ms. Rita Legrand of Lakeview was noted as calling the mail problem to the City’s attention.
Mr. Kopplin suggested someone in the City’s mailroom drive the mail to the post office. Mr. Hebert noted that each piece of mail needs to be postmarked.
Ms. Illarmo noted that Mr. Square is getting the bandwidth for Accela increased which should help with increasing the speed that Accela can be accessed. Mr. Hebert noted that it could take up to 4 minutes to upload information to the system previously.
Mr. Square noted that Accela is hosted in California. There was some discussion about hosting the system locally. Mr. Kopplin said “Bring it home!” Hosting the system locally would help with speed.
Mr. Kopplin thanked the Code Enforcement department for following through with his requests for more information. He also stated that the Mayor has met with the Bar Association to get lawyers who will volunteer to help with Blight cases.
Mr. Hebert noted that City Attorneys will be volunteering their time this Saturday and next to research files and get the blight cases moving.
Ms. Illarmo once again noted that Accela is a stumbling block to progress. While Accela is better, it’s not completely set up the way Code Enforcement needs it to be to make reporting more efficient.
Mr. Wise asked what opportunites for citizens to help with the process. Ms. Illarmo noted that her department gets over 100 pieces of returned mail daily. Ms. Rita Legrand has been helpful with this.
Mr. Carrere reported on demolitions. The number of demolitions remains constant. The City continues to work with its partners to move the demolition process along. Ms. Joyce Wilkerson noted that the LLT has a plan complete its demolitions by December, 2011.
Mr. Kopplin asked if anyone has data comparing LLT demos in St. Bernard vs Orleans Parish. Ms. Wilkerson said that she believed many of the demolitions in St. Bernard were done with FEMA money. Mr. Kopplin is worried about LLT demo money running out.
A discussion ensued about FEMA and Hurricane Katrina damaged properties. There are still 34 FEMA trailers remaining. Mr. Kopplin expressed the need to close out the FEMA trailer problem.
Mr. Hebert discussed lot clearings and noted the emphasis on the lower 9th Ward which is something he requested. Emphasis on lot clearings in the lower 9th Ward will continue throughout the summer.
Mr. Miles Granderson discussed code lien foreclosures. He discussed 609 Jackson Avenue which has 78 condos so 78 writs had to be filed. Jeremy Stevens and Diane Nixon did a great job on filing the writs. Mr. Granderson noted that more money came in for properties sold at Sherrif’s Sale. Total year to date income from Sherrif Sales is $349,514.48.
Mr. Kopplin noted that people coming in to pay the $575 court costs to keep a property out of a Sheriff Sale does not even begin to cover costs to the city for adjudicating the property. Mr. Kopplin suggested that the City’s costs should be covered.
There are several properties scheduled for auction in the Sept 15-23 time frame.
Ms. Wilkerson said no NORA closings were done in the last two weeks. Several will be closed out during the next two weeks. Mr. Hebert asked for more information on NORA closings.
Mr. Kopplin suggested that putting a lot of properties up at a Sherrif Sale may entice speculators who will simply sit on the property until the market recovers. How can we make sure properties will get fixed and not just mothballed by speculators?
Mr. Wise noted that 20% of people who go to hearings put their property into compliance.
Questions from the audience were read and answered. The City has to show due diligence to find property owners. They don’t have to actually find the owner to get a blight judgment on the property.
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
8:00-9:30 AM CST
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117