Hubbard makes good on clean-up promise

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 24, 2008


Editor and Publisher

GARYVILLE — St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard is serious about his focus on cleaning up the parish.

His message to owners of blighted housing is simple: Clean it up, or we will get rid of it.

Hubbard put some emphasis behind his message on Thursday morning here in Garyville, as the first of what he said was 10 buildings scheduled for demolition and cleanup, was attacked.

And Hubbard made the point more clear than ever by climbing into a backhoe to get the action started himself.

The parish president, who has experience in the field as the owner of a construction company, took off his business jacket, then climbed into the cab of the parish backhoe, and started knocking down the house at 202 Fig Street so fast it had debris flying everywhere.

“This is all part of our ‘Keep St. John Beautiful’ campaign,” he said before the demolition took place. “This is one problem that has been neglected for too long, and we are now making it one of our priorities in the clean-up campaign for the parish.”

The abandoned house sat next to a well-kept house, where a neighbor said an elderly woman had struggled with the vagrants and drug users the crumbling home brought.

“Houses like that just attract drug users and that kind of people,” said lifelong Garyville resident Albert Scott, as he was cleaning up a neighbor’s yard. “The lady who was living there had even gotten her house broken into by the druggies who used to hide out in that house and smoke dope.”

Scott was all for the parish president’s initiative to help clean up the neighborhoods.

“When we get rid of houses like that, it makes some of the crime go away,” he said. “It helps us keep the neighborhood nicer, so I’m glad to see the parish doing this.”

Hubbard said that the parish now has a list of 10 homes which are at the top of their priority to get demolished. But he said there are less than 100 more that will get attention if they are not cleaned up.

Previously, St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said, the red tape was in the district attorney’s office, which wasn’t assisting the process.

“We couldn’t’ get the orders signed to get this done until recently. It’s definitely a bit of a process to get a house demolished,” Boe explained. “And in the past we didn’t have the cooperation we needed.”

However, newly-elected District Attorney Tom Daley, who has headed up the Keep St. John Beautiful committee for years, has pledged his cooperation in the area of blighted property in the parish.

The usual procedure requires there to be a complaint, then a 30 day waiting period for the owner to have a chance to fix the problem. If that doesn’t happen, the parish inspects again, then waits 30 more days, and then can get the OK to tear it down.

However Hubbard said he will take things one step further if he sees owners not interested in cleaning up their own property.

“If we decide a property is a public safety hazard, we can notify the owner, and we can tear it down within 24 hours,” he said. “And then the owner gets the bill for the job, and that can run up to $4,000 to $5,000.”

Hubbard pointed to a recent demolition and cleanup at the corner of River Road and Central Avenue in Reserve, where a longtime public eyesore was torn down and cleaned up by the owner.

“We just want to clean up stuff like this for our parish. Hopefully this will encourage people in those neighborhoods to take even more interest in cleaning up the area where they live,” he added.

The parish will have extra resources to get the demolitions increased since Hubbard has joined a deal with Jefferson Parish, where they have signed a deal with a contractor to handle similar houses there.

“We will piggy-back on the Jefferson Parish deal, so we now have a contractor ready to take care of these houses right away when we are ready to clean them up,” Hubbard said. “This deal saves us some money, and helps speed things up to keep cleaning up St. John Parish.”