St. Bernard transactions stall due to FEMA cuts - FOX Carolina 21

St. Bernard transactions stall due to FEMA cuts to moldy document program

Updated:
CHALMETTE, LA (WVUE) -

The clerk of court in St. Bernard has reached out to the Louisiana Secretary of State for help with a problem that has already slowed property sales and other transactions in a parish still trying to recover.

FEMA has stopped funding a record keeping program that was set up to deal with millions of Katrina flooded documents. They are records of St. Bernard's past.

Anytime a property is sold, someone has to go to the record books and make sure it's got clear title.

But that process was abruptly changed by Katrina, which flooded the courthouse and St. Bernard's written history.

"This is a huge problem," said St Bernard Clerk of Court Randy Nunez.

Nunez said 3.5 million documents got wet and moldy after the storm, some dating back to the 1700's.

A few are still at the newly renovated courthouse along with post-Katrina records. Millions of other moldy documents were sent to a warehouse in St. Tammany Parish for remediation.

The Windward Group would also look up documents needed for property or criminal transactions and digitize them so they would be made available to anyone who needed them.

"We had a storage fee of $1,900 and a service fee of $1,600 - a total of $3,500 a month," said Nunez.

However, that process has come to a complete stop due to a halt in FEMA funding.

"Oh boy, it wasn't tough enough before, it just got a little worse," said St. Bernard abstractor Albert Luke.

In most parishes, the information on properties and transactions is readily available online. However, this is not the case in St. Bernard, where property transactions are already being delayed.

"It's tough telling clients from outside and they say Katrina was over ten years ago," said Luke.

Now the clerk of court will have to go to St. Tammany once or twice a week and retrieve all court and property records needed by attorneys, realtors, and title researchers.

"I believe my employees shouldn't have to go deal with black mold. I will personally go an put on the containment suit," said Nunez.

He would love to see the records returned to the courthouse. However, that can't happen until they're remediated.

"If you bring something with mold into a building that doesn't have mold, it will cross contaminate the building," said Nunez, who has reached out to Secretary of State Tom Schedler for help.

"His efforts have been to contact FEMA - himself, Senator Vitter, Landrieu and Representative Scalise."

So far, there has been no lifeline for a parish whose recovery just got a bit tougher.

St. Bernard officials had begun digitizing documents before Katrina, but that process came to a halt with the storm.

FOX8 reached out to FEMA for a response. So far, there has been no response. haven't heard back. Nunez says he was simply told that time had expired on FEMA assistance.

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