Struggles continue for St. John Housing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish’s Housing Authority Board dredged up old business concerning outstanding debts during its meeting Monday evening.
The outstanding debts in question had been tabled from both the June 24 and July 24 meetings. The board motioned to untable them for discussion.
Chair Iona Holloway inqured about the status of the unspecified outstanding debts and asked why the New Orleans Housing and Urban Development office had not addressed them yet. Holloway said she would soon contact the HUD office directly to make an inquiry on behalf of the board. Board members did not reveal the total amount of the outstanding debts.
In providing a status update of the remediation and remodeling project that was initiated during the July meeting, Executive Director Trina Henderson told Commissioner Art Smith that the authority is finding that it has “a lot of vacancies, but a lot of units that are uninhabitable.” She went on to say that maintenance is finding more severe problems with the units after tenants move out.
She reiterated that limited funding will only allow for remodeling work to be done on nine units, although there are at least 30 units that require attention. Henderson also said that the HUD office is aware of the condiiton of the property.
“We first identified 30 units that we wanted to renovate. Due to the extent of the damage to the units, it dwindled down to 15. Then it dwindled down to nine because there’s not enough money to address the damage to those units,” said Henderson.
“Being aware of it and doing something are two different things,” said Smith.
“We’re talking about the federal government. They know we’re trying to house and rehab,” replied Henderson.
Smith suggested that HUD authorities tour the properties to see the condition of units for themselves, so that they may be more inclined to provide funding to repair the more severly damaged units. Henderson agreed, and also suggested that the board have a face-to-face meeting with the agency to discuss the limited funding. Henderson said she would request that the agency sit in on a meeting in the near future.
The board then went into executive session to discuss monies alledgedly owed to two construction companies, Crimson Eagle Inc. of Alabama and Compass Ventures Unlimited LLC of the New Orleans area.
According to minutes from October 2012, Crimson Eagle contracted with the Housing Authority in 2009 for emergency roof replacement and repairs on a variety of housing units involving Hurricane Katrina damage.
At the time, Crimson Eagle claimed that it had not been paid since March 2012. The principle amount at the time of the October meeting was $333,341, plus interest, from July 21, 2010.
Crimson Eagle was to be paid with capital fund money but never received payment. During the October meeting, Henderson announced that she planned to work toward rectifying the balance and had hired a company to help organize the books. HUD, however, reportedly said money had already been allotted for the payment and that it would not repay the same debt.
Holloway said the board is currently in litigation with both companies but could give no further information about the progress of the case. Board members had no information about Compass Ventures and did not reveal the current amount owed to the companies.
In other news, the board also accepted proof of loss payments in the amount of $84,020.75 as the actual cash value amount for windstorm damages sustained to housing development units in LaPlace, Edgard, Reserve and Garyville on Aug. 29, 2012. Henderson said the agency cannot apply the payment just yet but said they will begin by conducting an assessment on the storm-damaged units.