St. James holds at Youth Detention Center sale price

Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 22, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

VACHERIE — St. James Parish Council members chose not to take action this week when discussing sale options for the St. James Parish Youth Detention Center.

The board voted last month to drop the asking price for the venue to 65 percent of its $2.5 million appraised value.

Following discussion Wednesday, the parish board did not vote to lower the price again after hearing a report that potential suitors have expressed a desire to buy the property, but not for the current $1.625 million price tag.

The center closed in the summer of 2013 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.

St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel said he would not introduce the item for council discussion again unless directed to by parish council members.

District 7 Councilman James Brazan was reluctant to reduce the price to 50 percent of the appraised value for the unnamed suitors because he said the request could indicate the potential suitors are not serious enough for the property.

District 3 Councilman Terry McCreary suggested the council contract with a commercial relator to market the property.

Following the meeting, District 2 Councilman Jason Amato said he could see himself voting to lower the facility’s sale price.

“I do not want to keep it and we wind up with an abandoned building like the old Westbank Hospital on Highway 20 in St. James Parish,” Amato said.  “We are no longer in the juvenile detention business, and that was what that facility was designed for.  To change it to accommodate another use is going to require funding that we presently do not have dedicated.

“Selling the facility is our best option at this point, but if we have to demo it ourselves and then attempt to sell just the land, I am supportive of that too.”

In other business, Amato continued to receive feedback for his proposal to form a St. James Parish Flood Protection and Drainage Committee.

Amato said he is targeting the Sept. 3 Parish Council meeting to reintroduce the formation of the board with modifications based off discussion this week.

“I envision both the Eastbank and Westbank task groups expanding slightly,” he said as far as the committee’s makeup. “Plus I think once each of the task groups begin meeting, they may decide to bring in others for additional support.