“Mr. President,” drawled Councilman Glynn Pichon, “I’d like to remove 3288 Effie Street from the condemnation list and assign it to the city attorney’s office.”
Barely two minutes after roll call, this verbal hand grenade was tossed into the Slidell city council meeting. Well-dressed men in the audience frantically hunted through stacks of paperwork as city attorney Bryan Haggerty rubbed his tired eyes at the podium.
“The homeowner did demolish the property; the cleanup has not been completed,” Haggerty said with a frown, compulsively uncapping and recapping his pen.
“If I may, Mr. President, if anyone’s here that has any interest in the property, would you please come forward?” Haggerty wheeled around and scanned the chamber.
“Let the record reflect: no one appeared.”
Whew. Turned out this grenade was a dud. However, as soon as Council President Jay Newcomb flipped the page, calling out the name of 321 Cousin Street, the rumpled attorney rose again with an even more troubled look.
“Mr. France,” Haggerty summoned forth the shaggy, gray-haired building safety director as his first witness, “I know you’ve participated in some of the meetings. Would you provide the council an update?”
“Mr. Stanley proposed a plan to replace the electrical wiring and making that safe,” France slowly testified, bracing himself on the podium. “As well as the exterior of the building being brought up to 100 percent compliance.”
From memory, he impressively rattled off everything that the owner, this mysterious Mr. Stanley, had to fix: “All the rotten materials, the broken materials. The porch. The columns. The exterior doors. That does not include the heating, cooling, ventilation, and/or any plumbing deficiencies.”
Haggerty stood and cut to the chase. “These would be the three options. The first one: Mr. Stanley would have to appear tomorrow with his contractor. If he would fail to appear, we’re gonna ask the council to order all utilities be disconnected, and this matter be set in two weeks for condemnation.”
He wiped his nose. “The second option would be that Mr. Stanley work out a building permit with a schedule–it’s a schedule we are VERY strict about.”
France stood impassively as council members leaned in for the remaining ultimatum. “The third option would be that the permit would be issued, but if the work stopped or ceased for whatever reason, we would immediately cut off all utilities.”
All heads swiveled to the right end of the dais. Councilman Pichon knew this case inside and out–the final judgment was his.
“I’m gonna use the second option here to require Mr. Stanley to meet with Joe France tomorrow to submit a plan. Because of the public safety concern, which is a real threat,” Pichon clasped his hands and stared grimly at the lawyer, “if Mr. Stanley failed to meet with Joe France, the city is authorized to disconnect utilities by the close of business tomorrow.”
To administer the sentence, Haggerty beckoned Stanley forward. The man planted himself glumly at the podium and stared at the floor.
“I want to make sure you understood. You’re in agreement with that?”
“I am,” he responded.
“Okay,” Haggerty gestured to the audience. “Make sure you meet with Mr. France to set a time for tomorrow.”
“Ten-thirty. My office,” France ordered.
Stanley nodded. “That’s fine.”
Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to swift Southern justice.