St. James puts youth center on market for $2.5 million

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The St. James Parish Council voted Wednesday to sell the St. James Youth Center. The facility closed June 30. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The St. James Parish Council voted Wednesday to sell the St. James Youth Center. The facility closed June 30.

Council asking $2.5 million for closed facility

The St. James Parish Youth Detention Center is on the market for $2.5 million following a vote Wednesday by the Parish Council to declare it surplus property.

The center closed June 30 because of new state regulations that would have driven up the cost to maintain the facility. Youth offenders were sent to a detention center in Assumption Parish.

Parish officials considered turning the facility, located on the west bank of the Mississippi River adjacent to the Sunshine Bridge, into a prisoner work-release program hub, a nursing home or a minimum security prison.

However, the facility still sits empty.

Parish President Timmy Roussel said Wednesday there have been two recent inquiries into the youth center site with most of the interest centering around providing temporary housing there for the thousands of industrial workers expected to flood the parish over the next few years.

Roussel said the site could be used as “modular housing” or a “housing arena” for workers.

Roussel also said the Parish Council would face the issue of deciding how a 1-mill tax used to operate and maintain the youth center would be addressed now that its up for sale.

Parish Director of Emergency Preparedness Eric Deroche said the Parish Council could roll back the millage rate.

He said it could not be entirely eliminated because the parish still has to cover the costs of housing and caring for the juvenile offenders it sends to Assumption Parish.

The youth center millage generates about $360,000 annually, Deroche said.

Councilman Jimmy Brazan asked if the Parish Council would be able to approve the final sale agreement. He said he did not believe a buyer could be found to pay the full price of $2.5 million.

Deroche said state law requires the parish to initially list the property at 100 percent of its appraised value. If there are no interested parties, the Parish Council may vote to reduce the price to 75 percent, then 50 percent and eventually, the Parish Council could list the property at whatever price it chooses, Deroche said.

Councilman Jason Amato asked how the parish would market the youth center site and Deroche said he would advertise in the local newspapers and on an online auction site.