EB Property purchase debate plagues PPC meetingAug 3rd, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
District 1 Councilman P.V. Griffin came to the Council and requested an additional $125,000 for the purchase of the Old Joe Brown Property, now that the original offer had been rejected by the property owner.
Three months ago, at the April 28 meeting, the Council had approved funding the purchase of the Old Joe Brown property at $550,000, per Griffin’s original proposal. The property would be purchased by the Parish from owner and former Parish President Clyde Giordano, for levee construction on Plaquemines’ Eastbank. The site was chosen, according to Griffin, because of its proximity to the construction project and the access road which already exists on site. The new selling price has risen to $675,000.
However, contentions were raised at this latest meeting by several members—including Councilwoman Marla Cooper of District 9 and Councilman Kirk Lepine of District 3—who felt alternatives should be explored and a more definitive contract be obtained before the Council made any appropriations.
Arguments presented by Eastbank residents at that same meeting stressed how useful the property could be to residents. Aloma Savastano showcased a plan where existing structures on the Old Joe Brown property could function as a library— complete with a permanent meeting room and computer facility—as well as providing a location for a medical office, better serving residents than renting space from public buildings, as they do at present. In light of the aid the purchase would provide to residents—both for storm protection and civic function—the Council had approved the purchase at $550,000 by a vote of 6-1, with Councilman Lepine voting no, Councilman Byron Marinovich of District 8 absent for the vote, and Councilman Burghart Turner of District 6 abstaining.
Unfortunately, the concerns of Council members were confirmed. When Giordano was approached with the offer the government had approved, he asked for more.
Councilman Griffin came back to the Council, requesting additional funds.
“The property owner refused the $550,000… and the owner has agreed to $675,00,” Griffin said.
Griffin outlined once more of the mitigated costs that would be saved by purchasing this specific property—the access road to the levee, etc.—and that this asking price still fell far below the appraised value of $800,000.
“On April 28, the Council appropriated $550,000,” Cooper said. “I made some insinuations that this would happen.” Cooper went on to say, “We need some sort of legal document [here], or are we going to keep coming back here every three months until this man gets what he wants?”
Councilman Turner argued that the additional funds are a mistake, and that the Parish was only seeking this property specifically for political reasons.
“This was presented as a way to facilitate building levees faster,” Turner said.
“It’s as though we’re trying to justify this [purchase] as we go along,” Turner said. “The purpose is changing and growing, until we can purchase the property.”
Council Chairman Dr. Stuart Guey addressed Turner’s comments about the levee project and addressing the issue that the property was being purchased from a former Parish President. But that, to Guey, was why anyone was taking issue with the purchase from the beginning.
“This is Clyde Giordano’s property,” Guey said. “If it was Joe Taxpayer’s, it wouldn’t be an issue.”
However, Councilwoman Cooper suggested that the average taxpayer would not have put the Parish into this situation, and would have accepted the initial offer.
Councilman Griffin decided to defer the appropriation until the next Council meeting, at which time he will present documentation attesting to Giordano’s willingness to sell at the set price of $675,000. However, before he deferred, Griffin brought up once more what his motivations are for seeing this purchase through: levee protection and community building.
“We haven’t had a library on the Eastbank since 1965,” Griffin said. “We haven’t had a medical facility… never.”