The Investigators: Battling the blight in Baton Rouge

The Investigators: Battling the blight in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There are thousands of blighted properties and building that need to be torn down all over Baton Rouge, and East Baton Rouge taxpayers are picking up the tab.

"I'm past fed up, because I'm tired of seeing rats in my yard," said Janet Jackson, who lives on Sewanee Dr. just off of Sherwood Forest Blvd.

Jackson said she called the Baton Rouge Department of Public Works (DPW) at least four times complaining about her neighbor two doors down. In fact, the
house next door to her is currently for sale.

"I see a lot of people stop there but every time they stop there, they look next door and they don't want it," said Jackson. "There's so many rats and roaches, it's ridiculous. It's nasty," said Jackson.

Records the Investigators reviewed for a home on Sewanee Dr. showed DPW had received several complaints about the property over the past few
years because of the clutter on the property.

In November 2014, DPW served the homeowner a court order saying she had to clear the property. When the Investigators went to her home a year later, there was clutter covering just about every inch outside of her home.

The homeowner refused to interview or talk with 9News.

At least one neighbor said she asked her to clean up and city officials said they've issued several notices.

Justin Dupuy with DPW said that particular home on Sewanee Dr. was their worst case. But because the homeowner was not cleaning up her property and DPW was getting complaints, the city had to step in with your tax dollars picking up the tab.

"I say we, as taxpayers, are having to go behind people who aren't taking care of their property and spend money that could be used for roads and bridges
and other important things around the area to clean up properties that have not been taken care of," said Dupuy.

The city also has an ordinance concerning tall grass and weeds that says any grass or weeds over 12 inches must be cut down. After we asked about the growing problem, Dupuy said he found records going back to 2012, with well over 9,000 such properties that the city now has to maintain because property owners have not taken care of it by cutting down the grass or clearing off the property.

That 9,000 does not even include all the properties on the city's condemnation list, like Second Chance Academy on Lanier Dr. near Greenwell Springs.
But it's now abandoned with overgrown weeds and according to Dupuy, it's why it's near the top of their list.

Kiran: How much is that going to cost taxpayers?
Dupuy: A whole lot of money. We're looking around $30,000-$40,000 to tear that building down.

Between buildings and homes, the city has nearly 300 properties that either need to be condemned or were just recently torn down and tax payers pay
for it.

"As a taxpayer, the money you're paying into the city and the general fund that gets directed into our budget, that portion is just going to clean up somebody's mess," said Dupuy.

Back to the house on Sewanee Dr., the city along with several other agencies were scheduled to go clear her property. Instead, just two weeks after the Investigators found it full of clutter, the following week, a clean up crew hired by the homeowner herself, was picking up things, throwing them in a dumpster, and cleaning the outside of her property.

"I want to thank you guys for taking the opportunity to come out here and get ahead of this because I don't think without your actions, she'd probably
not have done it herself and we would be out here using taxpayer money to do it," said Dupuy.

Clean up crews said it's took at least a week to clear out the property on Sewanee Dr., and they said it would cost the homeowner about $20,000,
which is how much taxpayers could have had to shell out.

Now, Dupuy said he can use the money saved to clear out up to 10 additional lots.

If it gets to the point that the city has to ultimately clean up your mess, a lien will be placed on your home or lot.

On the map below, the yellow house icon represents the condemned houses. The other icons represent the 9,000 complaints of tall grass and weeds reported since 2012. To see specific layers, click the square menu icon in the top, left corner of the map.

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