St. John Parish’s delayed Hurricane Isaac recovery detailed

Published 12:11 am Saturday, July 2, 2016

Parish Council told 28 projects under construction, 10 completed

EDGARD — Slow residential recovery following Hurricane Isaac remains a concern for St. John the Baptist Parish, as local leaders were informed only 10 projects have been completed through one federal program.

Hurricane Isaac struck in August 2012, and St. John Parish Council members received the latest Hurricane Isaac recovery update during Tuesday’s Council meeting in Edgard.

The Hurricane Isaac CDBG program, which is providing funding to eligible families to repair homes damaged during Isaac, is on schedule, disaster recovery manager Scott Reddoch told Council members.

Reddoch, who works for Royal Engineering, said 234 coordination meetings have been held regarding the homeowner rehabilitation program. He said 124 contractor site visits have been conducted and bids for 124 projects received.

He added 28 houses are under construction and 10 are completed and have received their final inspections.

Reddoch said the housing elevation program is delayed because early bids exceeded the cap amount but added more recent bids have fallen within the guidelines and are being awarded. Although pre-construction activities are on schedule, he admitted construction has fallen behind.

Small rental rehabilitation and homebuyer assistance programs are also on schedule, according to Reddoch. He said 114 applicants have completed their applications and 50 applicants are searching for houses and attempting to secure home loans.

Reddoch said another 14 applicants have applied for small business grants.

However, he did acknowledge glitches in the application process, specifically incomplete applications and a lack of documentation, after being questioned by Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard.

Reddoch admitted that of the nearly 1,200 applications, 453 are incomplete, which Council members say has impeded the process for some residents.

A separate contractor was hired to perform intake and gather appropriate documentation, but the percentage of incomplete applications drew the ire of Hotard, along with several other Council members. Reddoch also said the contractor had been partially paid.

“This is an ongoing issue,” Hotard said. “The residents have been victimized twice. I don’t see why we ever made a payment to a contractor who did not live up to its obligation. We paid for something we did not receive.”

Reddoch said every resident who may have an incomplete file is being notified as to what is missing.

The parish received more than $32 million in grant funds through the Department of Housing and Urban Development CBDG Disaster Recovery Program and the State of Louisiana Office of Corporate Development/Disaster Recovery Unit. The funds are being allocated to assist the needs of low to moderate income homeowners whose homes Isaac impacted.

Residents were required to complete a lengthy application process through the intake contractor and then await word whether it was approved or denied. There is some concern that some of those eligible homeowners may not receive grant funding because of the logjam. Parish President Natalie Robottom said the deadline would be met; although she did not reveal the date of the deadline.

In other Parish Council business, Raj Pannu was sworn in as the District 7 Council member Tuesday to replace Buddy Boe, who recently resigned his seat to take a position as communications director for Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

Pannu will hold the seat until a special election is called to replace Boe. Pannu said she is not seeking the seat longterm.

— By Richard Meek