Wednesday, December 19, 2007

St. Tammany to cut utilities to 166 FEMA trailers

St. Tammany Parish officials say they will move to disconnect utilities early next month to 166 FEMA trailers whose residents do not have special permits to continue using them as temporary homes.

"After the first of the year, we will begin utility disconnections," parish spokeswoman Suzanne Parsons Stymiest said Wednesday. "And at this time, we have no plans to issue any more notices . . . We feel everyone has had plenty of notices. There's been mailings and we've physically posted trailers" which are in violation of parish codes.

The last set of notices were delivered in late November when parish code enforcement officers slapped citations on 605 illegal FEMA trailers throughout St. Tammany that did not have permits or had expired permits. The notices gave residents 10 working days to contact parish officials to acquire a valid permit.

The parish learned the status of 439 cited trailers through responses from residents or data provided to the parish this week by FEMA, Stymiest said. Some of the 439 trailers are no longer being used and are awaiting pickup by FEMA, she said.

Most residents in the remaining trailers have asked for permits, saying they are still awaiting Road Home grants or insurance settlements to rebuild, Stymiest said. "And some are going to need FEMA assistance to find suitable housing," she said.

Stymiest said the parish is working with FEMA to expedite the removal of empty trailers and will work with the agency when the parish starts disconnecting utilities to 166 trailers whose residents have not responded to the parish citation. She noted that FEMA regulations require residents to acquire the necessary local permits for trailers.

After Katrina, Parish President Kevin Davis through executive orders allowed permits for FEMA trailers used for temporary lodging to remain in effect. But beginning in March, the parish began requiring residents to get temporary permit extensions to continue living in trailers that violate zoning and other codes.

Parish officials said there were more than 11,000 FEMA trailers in St. Tammany after Katrina. About 3,700 trailers remain in St. Tammany, including some 1,500 trailers in mobile home parks whose residents currently are not required to get permit extensions, officials said.