FEMA housing rumors untrue

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

No forced land sales or seizures are planned by agency



LAPLACE — Rumors in St. John Parish about the possibility of thousands of temporary housing sites from FEMA popping up here are not true, Parish President Nickie Monica said this week.

Following a meeting on Tuesday afternoon in St. James Parish that involved FEMA representatives, nine parish presidents and a representative from the governor’s office, a clear plan was discussed about just how FEMA plans to bring temporary housing to numerous locations throughout the state.

And even though there have been rampant rumors in St. John Parish about just what is going on, Monica told L’Observateur this week that most of them are not true.

“We have gotten calls saying FEMA is buying up all the land here, or that they are forcing temporary housing in here, regardless what we think,” he said. “None of that is true.”

The facts about temporary housing from FEMA to house the thousands of state evacuees is as follows.

Monica said FEMA officials told parish presidents that it will be each specific parish to tell the federal government how much they can help when it comes to accommodating temporary housing. There is currently no land buy, and no effort by the government to force the housing where it is not wanted.

The temporary housing sites will be made up of mobile homes, campers and modular homes, explained St. John Chief Administrator Natalie Robottom, but FEMA is now waiting for each parish to evaluate just how much housing they can take, if they can take it at all.

Monica said there is a real question about whether St. John can take any temporary housing since its infrastructure of sewage and water, as

well as supplies, is already being taxed.

“We already have 15,000 extra people living here, so everything we have is being pushed to the max,” he explained. “We will evaluate whether we can take any temporary housing, but right now, we don’t know if that is even possible.”

Robottom said the federal government is looking at state parks and closed military bases as initial sites, and Baton Rouge has already offered five tracts of land for the housing.

But beyond that, she said St. John officials will take at least a week to even begin discussions and gather information to determine whether they will offer space or not.

Monica added that his office has doubled the number of zoning meetings in the parish to assist current trailer parks which may wish to expand or open, but those are normal channels for commerce.

“We are trying to help offer more sites just by allowing private business a quicker process for rezoning,” he said. “But that is the normal procedure. Otherwise we have just heard so many rumors, some that are really vicious, about what we are going to get from FEMA. Most of them are just not true.”

Another level of FEMA assistance was scheduled to open this week in LaPlace, as a Disaster Recovery Center was set to open its doors on Sept. 22 in the old Rite Aid Shopping Center on Belle Terre.

Monica urged citizens to register on line with FEMA to get their registration number before going to that site to seek other aid.