St. James lowers youth center’s sale price

Published 11:45 pm Friday, July 18, 2014

Stephen Hemelt

VACHERIE — The sale price for the St. James Parish Youth Detention Center dropped to 65 percent of its $2.5 million appraised value after St. James Parish Council members voted to lower the asking price Wednesday evening.

The center closed last summer because of increased costs to run the facility.

St. James Parish now uses a 1-mill tax to pay for local youth offenders to be housed in a detention center in Assumption Parish.

Alternative uses discussed for the facility include affordable housing, work-release program, minimum-security jail or dormitory housing for industrial manpower.

St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel said two parties have expressed interest in buying the facility and another is interested in leasing it.

In May, parish council members cut the sale price to just under $1.9 million but have yet to receive an offer.

Council members discussed other options when they met earlier this month, including demolishing the center in an effort to bring it back to raw land, which would cost the parish $160,000 with parish workers doing the work themselves.

The parish paid $3,000 for electricity at the unused facility in June, and parish officials said they were going to cut off electricity his month. Water and gas have already been turned off.

The parish is still paying insurance on the facility and has an employee going out to the location three days a week to do inspections; otherwise, there is no round-the-clock security at the unmanned facility located off Louisiana 70.

District 2 Councilman Jason Amato asked earlier this month if at some point is the location of more value to the parish as clear land.

“If you sell, that is not to say it won’t be a run-down facility,” he said.

District 7 Councilman James Brazan said the parish, at least, would have some control over the location with a lease agreement

“If leasing is not an option, I am for demolition,” he said.

“I would definitely like to pursue leasing it if this company has any validity.”

District 3 Councilman Terry McCreary said demolition should be the parish’s last option.

All expressed some concern that if the property is advertised for too cheap a price, a land speculator will acquire it and keep it for years with nonuse.