St. John Housing Authority losing patrols

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2011



LAPLACE – Nearly three months after entering into a contract with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office for extra patrols at the parish’s four housing developments, the St. John Housing Authority has decided to terminate the formal agreement so the money can be spent elsewhere in the agency.

Housing Authority Executive Director Trina Henderson announced the move at Monday’s board of commissioners meeting in LaPlace.

“We just could not absorb the additional cost of keeping the patrols,” Henderson said. “We have built a good relationship with the Sheriff’s Office, and they will continue to provide protection for us.”

The agency entered into the contract with the Sheriff’s Office in September. Off-duty officers were paid $25 an hour to provide four-hour patrols several times a week at the housing developments in LaPlace, Reserve, Garyville and Edgard. The funding for the detail came from a 2009 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development capital fund grant, which is in danger of expiring.

Henderson said the agency has decided to shift that money to the budget for overall operations at the Housing Authority. She said the Housing Authority would seek out other grants to pay for the protection services instead of relying on HUD.

The Housing Authority added the contract in September because a few of the developments have had problems in the past with non-residents coming in and causing problems. Interim Director Cindy Johnson said at the time that residents were finding people were leaving nearby bars and moving the party to the developments. Sheriff’s deputies also recently arrested a suspect in a killing in Reserve who was hiding out in one of the Housing Authority’s units.

Henderson said keeping those people who do not live in the housing developments out of them will be the biggest hole left by the lack of patrols. She said the officers had learned who lives in the developments and who does not. She said deputies will still patrol, but they won’t be able to work with the agency to enforce leases.

In other action from Monday’s meeting, Henderson said the contractor employed to demolish a burned out housing unit in the LaPlace development has begun final preparations to destroy the derelict unit. She said work will begin on the unit, located in the 200 block of Joe Parquet Circle, in the next 10 to 15 days.

The board of commissioners was also briefed on a detailed physical needs assessment report on the four housing developments. The report, conducted with the help of Meyer Engineers and Eliza Eugene Industries, indicated each of the four properties, all more than 40 years old, are in poor condition and are all in similar states of degradation on both the interior and exterior.

The report examines kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, walls, fixtures, electrical wiring and other elements in need of repair. The report said the necessary improvements needed to bring the four developments up to standard would cost an estimated $8.6 million.

Henderson said the agency will seek out grants as well as private partnerships to help foot the bill.