[StBernard] St. Bernard Can't Pay to Start Rebuilding

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Jan 12 22:10:50 EST 2006

Maybe someone should contact Oprah & see if she responds. The Katrina horror
story is the whole parish's story.


-----Original Message-----
St. Bernard can't pay to start rebuilding

Advocate staff writer
Published: Jan 11, 2006

St. Bernard Parish government is in such dire shape it cannot afford to pay
planners to map out rebuilding plans, one of the leaders of the effort said

"The entire parish has been completely devastated," said V.J. Dauterive, a
lawyer from Meraux who is on a 38-member parish rebuilding panel.

"Everybody who is doing what they are doing are doing it with their own
dime," he said of parish residents. "It's hard to build a consensus unless
you have the experts assisting you."

Dauterive made his comments to a task force of the Louisiana Recovery
Authority, set up to oversee efforts to rebuild southeast and southwest
Louisiana after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Hurricane recovery attention, including countless stories in the news media,
have focused mostly on New Orleans.

St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans, was all but leveled by
Katrina, which struck Aug. 29.

Homes, businesses and schools were destroyed or flooded, in some cases
leaving little more than foundations. An oil spill in Chalmette that spread
to neighborhoods added to the misery.

Revenue for parish government is nonexistent because the parish's tax base
was all but wiped out by the storm.

Local officials have said 75 percent of parish vehicles and buildings were

They say basic needs such as firetrucks and a water treatment top a list of
immediate priorities that easily total $200 million.

"You don't understand Katrina unless you have walked through St. Bernard,"
said Donna Fraiche of New Orleans, chairwoman of the LRA's long-term
community task force, which includes Dauterive.

Dauterive said the St. Bernard rebuilding panel has divided into eight
groups that meet individually and as a group each week.

"But we have money problems," he said. "They have no money to fund the
working of the committee. Right now we are trying to do too much on our

Local officials plan to use architecture experts from Tulane University to
help the parish get back on its feet.

"It's ambitious," Dauterive said of rebuilding efforts. "I'm not sure there
is a model for it anywhere."

Dauterive said local leaders got a $100,000 contribution from Exxon Mobil
Corp. for parish recovery efforts.

He said four nonprofit groups pitched in another $100,000.

The lawyer, who is living in Baton Rouge, left Tuesday's task force meeting
for a short period to huddle with an official of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency to discuss his parish's plight.

Dauterive said later that FEMA may be able to help finance work that parish
residents are trying to pay for now.

"We've lost valuable time," he said. "We are crawling right now. We need to
be walking."

He said parish officials have asked FEMA for $2 million in assistance.

"We need to get a plan," Dauterive said. "We can't do that ourselves."

Dauterive also said St. Bernard's predicament deserves attention.

"I do encourage you to go down there," he said. "Our situation is dire."

About 150 residents of St. Bernard Parish gathered at a Baton Rouge church
Saturday to hear about recovery efforts.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, said the most flexible federal aid
approved by Congress so far is the $6.2 billion in Community Development
Block Grants, expected in part to help homeowners.

Sean Reilly, a Baton Rouge businessman and a member of the LRA's board of
directors, told the task force Tuesday that the funds are twice the amount
allocated for the entire nation last year.

"We now have the daunting task of administering that money," Reilly said.

He said the $6.2 billion is notable for two reasons.

"We have to do it right," Reilly said. "And it is not enough."

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