BATON ROUGE -- Despite her demands for immediate action, Gov. Kathleen Blanco will leave office Monday without seeing construction begin on the first of 534 planned alternative housing units for hurricane victims.
Mississippi, which was one of three other states to receive a slice of a $388 million federal Alternative Housing Pilot Program, has placed occupants in 1,223 housing units in that state's three coastal counties. That's at least a quarter of the units Mississippi is planning as part of its two-year program.
In a Nov. 3 letter to Louisiana Housing Finance Agency President Milton Bailey, Blanco ordered construction to begin by the end of that month and forbade any ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The state officials and private contractors who spent much of last year bickering about the "Louisiana Cottage" project still refuse to commit to a construction start date, but all parties said this week that groundbreaking at Jackson Barracks, the first location for the project, is imminent.
A spokesman for the project manager, the Cypress Group of Baton Rouge, said the next step is for his consortium to finish devising its construction schedule and solicit proposals from the remaining subcontractors.
"We've got a substantial amount of planning and engineering work that will occur," Ben Dupuy said Friday. "The good news is that everything is moving forward with all deliberate speed."
Several other long-lingering hurdles have finally been toppled.
Everyday, I see more and more Mississippi Katrina Cottages on I-10. They are on the way to home sites. They are cute but very small. But they fit in better than the FEMA trailers and do not have the issues of FEMA trailers. The Mississippi Katrina Cottages are built to with-stand 155mph winds. People do have the option of buying. I saw this one in D'Iberville. It wasn't there in November.
These cottages are very small. There are two sizes under the Mississippi Katrina Cottage Program. One is around 700 square feet and the other is around 800 square feet. They aren't bigger than FEMA trailers. They do have better advantages. The most important one being they actually look like homes.
This must make a big impact on families who have been crammed into FEMA trailers. Plus, the design helps them fit in with existing homes. The FEMA trailers are an eyesore. The cottages are a vast improvement.
I hope Louisiana will have its act together.