Lawmakers grill Texas Brine over buyout plan

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 6:30pm

People living in Bayou Corne are worried Texas Brine won't give them a fair offer for their properties. Assumption Parish leaders and residents are also worried about the safety of the area.

"You are liable. Pay their damage. They shouldn't have to bear that expense. You're liable. Pay their damage," Marty Triche, Assumption Parish Police Jury President, said of Texas Brine.

"They can't expect us to give our homes up for little or no money at all," Gary Metrejean, Bayou Corne resident, explained.

He said experts have spent too much time explaining the science behind the sinkhole. He wants to see more focus on helping residents.

"It's about us, the people. It's about us relocating, making our lives whole again, and moving on. We don't want to get rich by no means from these people," Metrejean stated.

Lawmakers grilled Texas Brine about their plan for purchasing people's property. Texas Brine officials said appraisers started contacting residents who previously stated they wanted to be bought out on Monday, March 18. The company said it can't talk to some of the residents just yet because of pending lawsuit. Residents who have legal representation must have their lawyers contact the company first to start the buy out process.

Texas Brine officials say company's contracted by Texas Brine will start inspecting impacted homes next week. It'll be at least thirty days before the company has decided on a price to pay each resident. The company told lawmakers appraisers will base their property values off of what the home was worth before the sinkhole formed.

Metrejean is worried that won't happen.

"I think that's it's a p.r. move, I really do. I'm curious to see what they are going to offer us," Metrejean said. "I know what my house appraised for three years ago. It's going to be an insult if they come to me and tell me that it's $15,000, $20,000, $30,000 less then what my appraisal was three years ago. "

Metrejean says the fight to help the Bayou Corne community is far from over.

"We are not going to let this go until legislation is formed and developed, so this doesn't happen again. So, if you think you are going to pay me and walk away you got another thing coming," Metrejean exclaimed.

Parish officials agree.

Experts from CB&I told lawmakers the cavern hasn't finished filling up. Over the weekend the sinkhole "burped" and new debris and hydrocarbons came to the surface. Parish emergency officials say they noted almost an acre of new land sloughed in the sinkhole.

Parish leaders begged lawmakers to continue sending state resources to the Bayou Corne area. They want more help to make sure Highway 70 stays safe for travelers, and extra help monitoring the situation with Oxy Cavern 1.

Dr. Gary Hecox with CB& I told lawmakers Oxy 1 is not an immediate threat to residents. He compared the situation with Oxy 1 to the start of hurricane season. He said if the cavern was to fail leaders would have months of seismic activity to warn them before hand.

Hecox described the worst case scenario if the cavern collapsed. The end of the resulting sinkhole would be between 620 to close to1,000 feet from Highway 70.

"That's dangerously close we are dangerously close at present time. We need the resources to protect Highway 70," Triche said.

A community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. At the Assumption Parish Community Center 4910 Highway 308, Napoleonville, LA.
 

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