No answers as Scotlandville sewer settlement yet to be signed

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Monday, February 4, 2013 - 10:31pm

The buyout for residents of the University Place neighborhood still has not been approved, even though the East Baton Rouge Metro Council passed it nearly two weeks ago.

Councilwoman Chauna Banks Daniel, whose district encompasses part of the buyout zone, said Monday evening a judge has yet to sign the paperwork to make it official.

In the meantime, residents are left to hold meetings amongst themselves to prepare each other for the appraisal process.

"And we're just simply still asking a lot of questions that have not been answered to the community," said Greg Mitchell, who lives next to the North Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Beyond their own futures, the residents are concerned about everyone else in the neighborhood who was not included in the city-parish's arrangement, but still deal with the flies and smell.

"There will be others," Mitchell said, "that will be left behind once this community buyout is done."

They also worry about the older residents, some of whom have dealt with illness brought on by the sewer plant.

"There's stress issues that are associated (with moving)," Mitchell noted. "This is traumatic for folk who have to go and uproot out of a neighborhood, out of a home that they've paid for for years, that they've raised children up (in)."

Mitchell stated that he and his neighbors are disappointed that politicians, from local to federal, seem not to take an active interest in their suffering.

"We find that, when election time comes, there are elected officials that will walk the community for a camera shot," he said. "But to get things actually taken care of, they're nowhere around. But to get a camera shot, to say 'I stepped in for a minute,' that's not good enough."

The way the settlement was constructed, federal housing laws protect the residents, guaranteeing them new homes of equal or greater value than their current homes. But after years of rejection, they hold some distrust of the process.

"There's always question of who's going to do right," Mitchell said. "Who's going to enforce and make sure, and watch to make sure the process works?"

Mitchell believes the Metro Council will oversee the appraisal process to make sure everyone gets a just price for their home. But Mitchell's home contains strips of flypaper three feet long, covered in flies he said were caught in the last three days. Each one is a symbol of a question residents still want answered.

"We've waited 20 years, now we need to start making the ball roll, instead of just passing the buck onto someone else."

Daniel told NBC33 she is waiting to get some answers from the East Baton Rouge Parish attorney's office.

But as soon as she does, she host a meeting for the neighborhood to explain what resources they will be able to use as they prepare to move into better areas.

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