Council discussion over Port Barrow blight heats up

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Home of Gerald Cox, who some say the City of Donaldsonville is "picking on" by requesting that he stay up to code by turning on his utilities.

"If you all are going to make a decision, I think it should be a fair decision for everybody," concerned citizen Ralfiel Stell said in front of the Donaldsonville City Council at last week's meeting.

Her statement is regarding her brother Gerald J. Cox's home, which sits at 105 1/2 West 7th Street and/or 106 West 8th Street Lot 7, Square 59, according to the council meeting agenda from February 12.

The Port Barrow home became a polarizing issue after the January 23 council meeting, where business owners Keith and Tracey Landry proposed putting up $20,000 of their own money for added security cameras in the neighborhood. This comes after suffering break-ins.

Their business, an RV Park, sits across the street from Cox's home, which has had no electricity or running water for months. Additionally, the Landry's are unhappy about people congregating in the yard which is said to often be used as a toilet.

It is unlawful to live in a home that has no utilities, according to city code. Moreover, Cox refused to leave his property after the city inspection and was jailed for violating a court order. He was jailed twice.

Stell told the council that it was "unfair" to serve Cox, when a blighted home stood next to where she lived for 15 years.

"For 15 years I lived next to a house where I didn't know if when I left my house that someone was going to jump on me," Stell said. " . . . What about the houses around it? You have 15 feet from his house all this drama going around. You've got houses where people are living in it with no utilities. And for this matter to be brought to The Chief and to be dealt with in The Chief, when I think you can just ride around the city and see all kind of things going on."

"We have to be proactive with the laws here," Coucilman Rev. Brown responded. "Things are happening here at 4 o'clock in the morning. If we stay out of it and do absolutely nothing, that means we are truly not doing what we were elected to do."

Stell fired back by saying again that 15 feet from Cox's house the same things are happening at other properties.

"You can't just target one person," she said.

Stell added that her family was going to help Cox with these issues.

"We're not targeting anybody," Rev. Brown said. "That was brought to our attention. I don't ride at 4 o'clock in the morning. I'm at my house before 10. If a crime happens, y'all are going to be pointing a finger at us for not doing anything. We give everybody the right to restore their house."

"I've got pictures in my purse I could show you where people have cardboard around their house," she said.

Mayor Sullivan said those issues are currently being addressed. Additionally, Sullivan brought up that eight months ago he told Stell that if Cox's home was not brought up to code that he would be staying with her, and that she said "no, he would not."

"The other properties are being addressed," Mayor Sullivan said. "It's not that we are picking on Gerald. There are some other ones that are just as bad or worse."

"He's going to have a chance to do what he's got to do, but they are just going to make sure that the house is going to be in livable condition with water and electricity," Coucilman Rev. Brown said. " . . . If we're ever going to get our community cleaned up, it's not just going to take five people and the mayor, it's going to take everyone."