Tonight’s town hall meeting will focus on blight

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tonight, residents of Bogalusa will get a chance to meet for the second time to discuss building ordinances and, specifically, blight.

The second town hall meeting to address these issues will also include a special guest, Ronnie Harris, the executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association. Harris will present some ordinances the LMA is piloting in other cities, which could also be used in Bogalusa to combat blight.

Bogalusa attorney Bill Arata, who has been organizing the town hall meetings, said the LMA has introduced a set of laws in several other cities across the state. These laws have been dealing with dilapidated properties by, in part, attaching cleanup bills to property taxes instead of simply ticketing the property. As it stands, officials with the city of Bogalusa have complained that tickets are easily ignored or slow to elicit a response.

Arata said the LMA’s ordinances are currently being tested in Port Allen, Baker and Denham Springs. According to an email from Harris to Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette, the LMA hopes to get the package of blight ordinances tweaked in these markets first before expanding the program.

If the ordinances are popular with residents and members of the Bogalusa City Council at tonight’s town hall, it’s possible the council could vote to adopt the ordinances at some point in the future, should the LMA agree to expand the program.

“It is not my intention to exclude Bogalusa, but I sure do wish to get it right,” said Harris, in the email. “I hope you understand. Once we get a couple of steps done with them, Bogalusa could be activated.”

Perrette said she’s hopeful the council will listen to Harris and adopt the ordinances.

“Bogalusa is fortunate and blessed to have a council brave enough to make the necessary changes to preserve and restore Bogalusa,” she said.

Two recent proposed changes to city ordinances to restrict yard sales and to increase the cost for rolling vendors were taken off the table after some initial support. However, Perrette said she’s optimistic the issue of blight will be addressed soon.

“This will give the city more teeth where there has been none before,” she said.

Perrette said she believes most of the city council will attend the meeting.

Arata said this will not be the final town hall meeting focused on blight. He expects to hold one more for city council members and the code enforcers to explain any updates to city ordinances should any pass.

The town hall meeting is not an official city meeting. It is intended as an informational meeting and a chance to ask questions and have a dialogue. Arata said the meetings are important, even if the topics like the problem of blight return for repeated visits.

“The moment people stop talking, they stop being issues,” he said.

The meeting will kick off at 5:30 p.m. at Bogalusa City Hall.