As the house-condemning saga comes to a close in Walker, it brings a few truths in the new world to light.
The first is probably the most obvious – property owners are still somewhat protected.
Denham Springs is having much of the same issues as Walker when it comes to these problems. The city has a laundry list of properties that fall under the “blighted” category and, yet, it continues to work with the owners of that real estate.
Letters, phone calls, and home visits are all required to make the condemning process of a house legal.
And it’s a long, arduous process, as the residents of Walker learned.
But that’s a good thing, so to speak, because that means a municipality can’t simply determine your home as “blighted” and come demolish it after publishing some legal notices and hosting an impromptu “public hearing.”
Now, certain criteria have to be met for local government to consider it blighted, but many homes in Walker and Denham Springs got a move on and either fixed homes or submitted them for demolition after contact.
But some linger – due to the rules that are attached to the regulation. As mentioned, contact has to be maintained with the owner and obstacles seem to always crop up – including, but not limited to, the city attorney not being available the night the original condemnation proceedings were supposed to occur, followed by the owner showing up and providing reasonable evidence that he would fix the house, followed by the process being reset by the owner doing something with the home, but nothing substantial.
And the road went ever on until Monday night, when the adventure finally came to a close.
The second piece is to understand that these types of homes aren’t the norm in condemnation situations; they’re rare. It’s what makes them more infuriating than the regular real estate owners who either submit for condemning proceedings or fix the home.
They stick out.
They can become a health hazard.
They can house animals, critters, and insects.
All of those issues become especially prevalent if one, or a few, homes do not submit.
But, eventually, the process worked and the house was condemned.
So, part three? Government is slow.
This doesn’t come as any surprise for most, but for others there seems to be this burning desire that, as soon as they need the government to jump - they will!
Thankfully, overall, that’s not the case.
Is it terrible sometimes? Yes, look at the Buddy Ellis, Dunn Road, and Forrest Delatte road work that’s coming up over the next 8 to 12 months.
Yes, 8 to 12 months of work after the projects were announced in the spring 2019. It will be late 2020 before they’re completed - widening, drainage work, road overlay, and striping.
There’s a bridge repair tucked in there.
All of that was delayed several times because of permitting and paperwork.
So, we’re faced with two situations, among many, wherein one process being slow is due to the paperwork requirement and believe it or not so is the other. Trying to keep up with homeowners and waiting for the foot to fall, one way or another, is the exact same as dealing with grant and government paperwork and the process of submissions and meeting requirements.
Is this necessary? Unfortunately so; it’s protecting your tax dollars from being misappropriated or poorly spent.
Are there inefficiencies in any of these processes? Absolutely. Is some of the paperwork ludicrous? Also true.
But the world going forward is going to be full of regulation and paperwork – want a reason why? Look at the I-12 dam.
So, let’s ask lawmakers to focus on the inefficiencies in the process, not removing the process all together – it was designed for a reason.
All be it not that well – but there’s always room for improvement
J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.