Scotlandville, LA (FOX44) — After decades of fighting, people who live in the University Place subdivision finally have a sense of hope.
They met for the first time Monday with the real estate agents hired by East Baton Rouge Parish to facilitate their relocation away from the North Wastewater Treatment plant.
Lacy Baaheth, Stephanie Black, Effie Carter, Agnes Chambers, and Ruba Thomas met with roughly five dozen families, explaining how they will help everyone move into homes in cleaner, better areas.
The meetings left residents with optimism that their living conditions will improve soon.
"We are still in trouble, but hopefully, we can kinda see that we are moving forward in the right direction," Greg Mitchell said. "Hopefully."
The head of the Department of Public Works, David Guillory, and council members, Chauna Banks Daniel and Tara Wicker each spoke to the residents about wanting to see a positive resolution to a fight that had lasted nearly two decades.
"We just wanted to come out tonight to let you know that, from the bottom of our hearts, our utmost desire is to make sure that everyone is taken care of," Wicker told them.
But it is impossible to erase all those years of bitterness with a short conversation.
"She said everything's fine," Valery Thierry mentioned after his meeting with the agent assigned to his house. "I don't know if everything will work out like she said, but she said everything's fine.
"Well, they've been at it for 20-some years, so they ought to bring it to the headland."
Mitchell, who has informally represented many of his neighbors during the lawsuits and negotiations involving the sewer plant, was pleased after his sit-down with Thomas. "She had the information and she seemed to be very abreast of what's going on," he said.
"I don't have no questions," agreed Thierry. "I just want 'em to move it along."
The parish hired the real estate agents a couple months ago, to make sure the relocation process went as quickly as possible. A federal judge had to first sign the modified consent decree regarding the parish's sewer system, which included the approximately $6 million settlement approved by the Metro Council in January.
"If I were in your shoes," Wicker said, "and I had the opportunity to relocate, these would be the ladies that I would entrust with my home, with my family, because they really care about your quality of life."
The homeowners also want to move as quickly as possibly, so they do not have to wake up to the smell of sewage and chemicals, the sight of the sewer flies, and the illnesses they cause. But the one message they wanted to pass on to the agents is that they won't be rushed.
"And we're willing to work with her, but we, as we've always said, we will not be railroaded by anyone. So we're going to sit and talk, and make sure that the information is coming across and everybody is on the same page."
The agents and appraisers will do their walkthroughs of the homes in the next couple of weeks. Then they said the parish will come back with offers by the end of the summer.