St. James balks at 1/2 price sale

Published 11:45 pm Friday, September 5, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

CONVENT — St. James Parish Council members balked this week at dropping the sale price of the St. James Parish Youth Center to 50 percent of its appraised value, instead authorizing parish government to look into securing sales assistance from a commercial realtor.

Council members did not act this week on a resolution to reduce the facility’s sale price to $1.25 million. The now defunct Detention Center was first put up for sale this spring for $2.5 million, receiving no bidders. It was most recently advertised for sale at 65 percent of that appraised total ($1.63 million), receiving no bids at that price.

Roussel said state law requires the parish put the center out for sealed bid in order to sell the property and building.

The Center closed in the summer of 2013 because of increased costs to run it. A parishwide 1-mill tax is now used to pay for local youth offenders to be housed in Assumption Parish.

Roussel said this week the parish had been contacted by six buyers, who expressed interest in purchasing the facility for 50 percent of its appraised value ($1.25 million), identifying one of the potential buyers as located in St. James Parish.

None of the St. James Parish Council members expressed support at Wednesday’s Council meeting for selling the property for $1.25 million, with District 6’s Ken Brass and District 7’s James Brazan speaking out against reducing the price further.

“My concern is every time you lower the cost of this project, you have more of a chance of something coming there that is not going to be beneficial to St. James Parish,” Brazan said.

“I have seen it twice in the West Bank. I’m not for lowering the price as of right now. I think we stay put.”

Brass implored his fellow council members to look into using the property for affordable housing.

Council members voted to table the sale resolution talk until Nov. 5, instructing Roussel to gather prices from commercial realtors on what they would charge to assist the parish in selling the facility or listing the property on various databases and report back to the Council at that time.

District 3 Parish Councilman Terry McCreary said his only concern is the parish receives the most value for the property.

“The only reason I recommended that we look or even consult with a commercial realtor is to get their input,” he said. “How do we package, how do we sell this property? Can we use one of their databases to post this property on to get the word our further than just Baton Rouge, New Orleans and the state of Louisiana? I don’t see why it would hurt to consult with a professional commercial realtor to see how we can package this property.

“We hire professionals all the time and we pay professionals all the time. They have the knowledge. They have the contacts. They have the databases.”

Bruce Mohon, St. James Parish legal adviser, said parish government could probably enter into a professional services contract with a realtor, adding a representative from the Louisiana Attorney General’s office suggested the parish get an official opinion on how to pay for that service.

“What she would not opine to was what would be a reasonable fee,” Mohon said.

“A fee as paying them a percentage of the sale or you pay them an hourly rate, she couldn’t answer that question. That is why she requested of me, ‘why don’t you request the opinion.’ ”

Roussel said the parish’s expenditures at the facility include $3,000 a month for utilities and routine inspection.