City of Plaquemine continues demolition of blighted houses

TOMMY COMEAUX tcomeaux@postsouth.com
Mayor Ed Reeves and the Plaquemine Board of Selectmen are in the midst of demolishing dilapidated houses like this one, slated to be torn down soon. Four were demolished last year.

On the last agenda for the Plaquemine Board of Selectmen meeting were several more houses slated for demolition in the city. Four were demolished last year.

The process is a long and complicated one to have a building declared condemned and then set for demolition, but Mayor Ed Reeves said he is going to do whatever it takes to clean up the city.

“It’s a promise I made to the people when I was campaigning,” he said, then pointed out the case of an elderly woman who was distraught over the condition of the house next door to hers and said she couldn’t get homeowner’s insurance on her own home because of it.

“The house next door was dilapidated,” Reeves said, then pointed to what is now an empty lot. “I told her I’m going to take it down and she said, ‘You aren’t going to take it down.’ I told her you just give me some time and it’ll come down.”

He admitted he did not expect the process to take eight months between the building being condemned and its demolition, but said he kept his word to the woman.

“It’s a long slow process to get to that point,” Chief Administrative Officer Richard Alleman said.

In a tour of the city last week, Reeves and Alleman pointed out several buildings on the chopping block, including one large one on Railroad Avenue.

“They’ve got no money and there’s no grants out there to help them out but the people are on me so we’ve got to address it,” Reeves said. “The man who owns this particular building wants to do something about the condition of his building but he doesn’t have the money.”

He said several decades ago, many of the facades of downtown buildings were repaired and repainted with funding through the state’s Main Street Program. The state no longer offers the grant due to a shortage of funds.

Reeves said there are many other issues working against the city’s campaign to remove blighted properties, but lack of money tops the list, Alleman added. “It’s a money thing for 99 percent of them.”

Some have been inherited by a number of heirs “and nobody wants to take responsibility for them,” while others have been seized by the parish for unpaid taxes.

Others are on the border of being condemned. One had its windows boarded up after the owner was notified it was being considered for demolition. “That barely meets our requirements,” Reeves said.

“We’re going to take it one step at a time and we’re going to get them cleaned up,” he continued. “I went from door to door during the campaign and nobody wants to live next to these houses, whether they’re rich or poor, white or black.”

Reeves said the blighted houses will be demolished over time, no matter who owns them.

“I’ve never played politics and that’s why I am where I am today is that they know I’m serious,” he said. “We’ll have them on every agenda. I told the council I want the city cleaned up.”

“You’re probably going to see four or five on the agenda for every meeting,” Alleman said. “It’s a process so it takes a while for us to get to that point but we’re working on it.”

“We want to take them all down,” Reeves said.