St. James finds no takers for youth facility

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 5, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

CONVENT – With no potential takers on the horizon, the now-empty St. James Parish Youth Center facility may end up being a dead weight for parish administrators.
Parish President Timmy Roussel and St. James Parish Director of Emergency Preparedness Eric Deroche provided at an update on the status of the facility during the St. James Parish Council’s most recent meeting in Convent, after prompting from Councilman Terry McCreary. The facility closed on June 28.
Roussel revealed that two prospective buyers had viewed the facility, but one had backed out rather quickly.
“In the last two weeks at least two people approached the parish. One of them thought they were interested. Once they went through the building, they came back and said it was not going to work out. We have one other party that said they may be interested in an assisted living scenario,” said Roussel.
“It goes back to the same situtation. It was too much cost to renovate the facility for a work release program than it was to operate it as facility,” said Deroche, when McCreary inquired about previous buyers who considered using the building as a mimimum security prison.
During a meeting in August, Sheriff Willy Martin made an appearance to discuss the likelihood of using the St. James Parish Youth Detention Center building. Martin said two Louisiana Workforce representatives, including a general manager who oversees privatized work-release programs, visited the facility to discuss utilizing the building for that purpose.
Martin said they were initially receptive after seeing the outside of the building but were concerned about the cost to start up and operate the facility, based on its size and layout.
Deroche went on to say that the parish is in the midst of plans to secure current titles for the property before they begin the sale process and is looking to market the facility toward industry and hotels in the area by emphasizing the acreage.
McCreary requested that an update be added to the upcoming meeting agenda.
In other news, the St. James Parish Council also announced that trick or treating hours would take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Halloween night. Households were also advised to leave exterior lights on to indicate they are offering treats.