Published 8:16 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Several vehicles were damaged Monday morning, after a badly burned building on Alabama Avenue partially collapsed.
The two-story building, which previously housed Landry’s Restaurant and Busby’s Family Karate, was damaged heavily in a massive block-wide fire in February 2014, but had sat vacant since. Monday, at approximately 10 a.m., portions of the second floor suddenly fell through into the first floor, and several exterior brick walls crumbled outward.
Floyd Burdeaux, owner of the adjacent Burdeaux Sales and Service on Alabama Avenue, was working in his office with the door open when he saw a commotion starting across the parking lot at the old Landry’s building.
“I was sitting at my desk and I saw a lot of smoke all of a sudden,” Burdeaux said. “I thought maybe something was on fire, and then I heard a loud bang and I ran outside to investigate.”
Burdeaux said that the dust cloud from the collapse was very heavy. He stopped several feet from the building, and watched as countless bricks tumbled down and the interior structure caved inward.
“I could see the walls buckling as I got closer,” he said. “I didn’t have the good sense to run back, I just stared in shock as everything came down.”
Burdeaux was not hurt, but a used 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee he had on sale was horribly damaged. Bricks landed on the back portion of the car, causing its roof to cave inward and leaving a pile of rubble covering it. Fallen debris also left scratches on a company pick-up truck.
Teddy Drummond, an at-large member of the Bogalusa City Council, was on site Monday surveying the damage.
“This building had been standing way too long and presented a safety hazard,” he said. “We have way too much blight in this town, and a lot of it is owned by out-of-towners.
“You can see just how close (Burdeaux) came to being seriously injured.”
City to have building demolished, owner says he has been given ‘runaround’
James Hall, director of public works for the city of Bogalusa, said that the building was initially condemned on Jan. 20 of this year. The owner, Stacy Busby, was given 90 days to address the building, but missed that deadline, and so the city informed Busby that the city would put out bids for the building’s demolition.
Hall said that Busby asked for more time to rebuild or demolish, but that his final deadline was up on Nov. 24. He said that he was actually on the phone with Busby on Monday at 9 a.m., just an hour before the building began to collapse.
“I told (Busby) that we were going to advertise for contractors to demolish the building,” Hall said.
Hall said that the building is now declared an “emergency situation,” and the city now does not have to wait as long. Hall said that he already has a contractor who will be awarded the contract by Wednesday morning, and demolition will begin once the contractor gets permits from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Hall said it typically takes 10 days for DEQ to issue permits, but he hopes they will be able to move faster because the building is classified as en emergency. He said a lien will then be placed on the property for the cost of the demolition.
“There is a lot of red tape on the city’s part,” Hall said. “I know some neighbors and citizens wish it had come down sooner, but there are a lot of guidelines we have to follow.”
Busby said Tuesday afternoon that he has tried on repeated occasions to obtain the proper permits to fix the building, but has been “given the runaround” by government officials.
Busby said he was told by a city employee that he would have to take forms to Franklinton to get the correct permit, but upon arriving in Franklinton the parish employee told Busby that the city had not given him the correct documentation.
“I’ve gone to try and get the proper permits,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done everything under the sun. I’m about fed up with the whole situation. There are about 15 different ways that I am being pulled. I’ve got permit after permit, but it never seems to be what it is supposed to be.”
Busby said he felt frustrated and that his concerns were not being heard because he is just a regular, powerless citizen.
“If anyone else puts themselves in my position, then they’ll find the same thing would happen to them,” he said. “Unless that person is connected with a certain element in Bogalusa.”