Gonzales council delays move on blighted property

The City Council decided Monday to wait before calling a “grave public emergency” regarding a dilapidated dwelling just blocks from City Hall.

Jerry Self, a city building official, told the council that a recent inspection of a house at 115 S. Alexander Ave. showed “rot and decay throughout the structure.”

In addition, he said, there were exposed electrical wires, no running water and feces on the floor — despite two occupants living at the house at the time of the inspection.

Self recommended that the house be condemned and demolished. However, City Attorney Ryland Percy said he was concerned the city was moving too quickly.

The house is owned by the estate of Andrew L. Marchal and Cecile C. Marchal, and the city sent notices about Monday’s meeting to the estate and to the house, which no longer is occupied as of last week.

Percy recommended that the city hire an attorney to track down family members and the rightful owners of the property, and make sure they are part of the condemnation process.

Councilman Kenny Matassa said the property “looks like a crack house,” while Self said that with the exception of a few broken windows, the house has been secured “as well as it can be right now.”

Mayor Barney Arceneaux recommended that the city hire Gonzales lawyer Dwight Poirrier to seek out the family, and then set a hearing about the demolition of the house.

The council unanimously approved Arceneaux’s suggestion.

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

LA. 30 STUDY: City officials are waiting to hear back from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development regarding possible roundabouts on La. 30 near Interstate 10.

City engineer Jackie Baumann said a “team of experts” at DOTD is reviewing a traffic study completed last year that looked into the feasibility of replacing three traffic signals on La. 30 near I-10 with four roundabouts. The study looked into how many vehicles use the road and if roundabouts are the best method of controlling traffic in the corridor.

FEMA REIMBURSEMENT: Finance Director Clay Stafford said the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the reimbursement of more than $167,000 to the city for expenses incurred during Hurricane Isaac. The city was reimbursed 75 percent of its expenses for emergency protective measures and cleanup efforts undertaken during the storm, Stafford said.

The council introduced an ordinance placing the funds into the 2012-13 budget, and a final vote will be taken at the next council meeting on March 18.