Story #17

I believe the story in today’s paper is the 17th installment that Stephanie Bruno has written about our renovation:

DESPITE SETBACKS, MID-CITY RESIDENTS HAMMERING AWAY
Saturday, March 10, 2007
By Stephanie Bruno
Contributing writer

NOTE: When we last visited Bart Everson and Christy Paxson, work on their Mid-City home was progressing sporadically, and the recent murder of their friend Helen Hill had dealt them a blow. Now, repairs are proceeding more predictably, but additional worries are clouding their horizon.

Mid-City, Bart Everson says, is on its way back.

“Most of the pre-storm favorites are open now — Brocato’s, Mandina’s and even Venezia’s,” he said. “I’d say overall the level of activity has picked up.”

But in his immediate area, the repopulation seems to be at a standstill.

“I think we probably have about a 25 percent occupancy rate,” he said. “Maybe homeowners are waiting on Road Home money, I’m not sure. This area was probably about 70 percent rentals pre-storm, so it’s possible that the pace of repopulation will pick up now that the Road Home rental program has been rolled out.”

The Road Home program has been on Everson’s mind a lot recently. He and his wife, Christy Paxson, did not apply for Road Home assistance when the program was originally offered, because they believed at the time that their insurance payout would cover all the storm-related repairs to their North Salcedo Street home.

But a recent conversation with their contractor, Mike Kaplan, has them thinking differently now.

“I talked to Mike about finances recently because money is running low, and there is still work to do,” he said. “The good news is that the Sheetrock is all in, taped, floated, sanded and primed. Baseboards and trim are going in. They’re sanding all the window sashes.”

The bad news is that Kaplan told Everson it will likely take an additional $10,000 to $15,000 to finish the work.

“The stair still has to be finished and all the electrical and plumbing trimmed out,” Everson said. “Some doors need hanging and others adjusting. Our whole-house fan needs to be reinstalled and the shower tiled. I think what broke the budget was repairing the termite-damaged framing we found when we removed Sheetrock downstairs.”

Everson and Kaplan scheduled a meeting with the bank inspector this week with the hope that the bank will release additional insurance proceeds it is holding so that Everson can pay Kaplan for work in place. But that still leaves the gap between the total insurance proceeds and what Everson and Paxson will have to pay to complete the job.

“We have been trying to figure out how to handle it, and it looks like we need to apply to Road Home,” Everson said. “We didn’t think we were going to have to. In fact, we enjoyed being among the fortunate few not needing Road Home. But now we are going to get in line with everyone else.”

Finances aren’t the only issue clouding Everson’s outlook these days. “The recent newspaper articles about the eroding coast were ominous,” he said. “It looks pretty bleak for Louisiana. I was somewhat aware of the problems, but I thought they were saying 50 years. Ten years at the most — that was news to me.”

Everson said it’s hard to imagine that the state will receive adequate funding for what needs to happen. “It would be the biggest civil engineering project in the history of the nation. Is there any indication when you look around that Louisiana is going to be able to swing a $40 billion deal? It doesn’t seem likely.”

Despite these concerns, Everson said he and Paxson don’t talk about leaving, and instead are waiting another year to watch how things unfold. In the meantime, Everson stays engaged by serving on the boards of the Mid-City Neighborhood Association, Urban Conservancy and Friends of Lafitte Corridor. And he found emotional release recently in the most unlikely of circumstances.

“We held a jazz funeral for Helen a few weeks ago,” Everson said, referring to Helen Hill, whose recent murder brought public outcry about crime. “We walked from her former residence here in Mid-City to Ernie K Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge on North Claiborne. There were hundreds of people dressed in outlandish attire with trays of vegan cupcakes strapped to them, like cigarette girls.

“Antoinette K Doe drove a hearse, and we had not one but two brass bands with us. It was one of those times I felt really proud of this city.”

. . . . . . .

Stephanie Bruno can be reached at [email protected]

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