By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer
While city officials struggle to tame blight, a key piece of the administration’s strategy – selling seized property at sheriff’s sale – has been hampered by the Clerk of Court’s computer crash, now in its second month.
The problem was discussed and bemoaned at the city’s bi-weekly BlightStat meeting this morning.
The electronic indexing system in the clerk’s office went down Oct. 26, and it hasn’t been fully restored, meaning that title searches can’t easily be completed to verify clear ownership. Without that confirmation, property sales across the city have been held up.
Clerk Dale Atkins has brought in extra help to fix the problem, though gaps still exist in the data, and even a small gap is enough to spook buyers and title-insurance companies.
Atkins did not return calls for comment.
The administration has a target of reviewing100 files on blight every two weeks, with the goal of moving many nuisance properties into commerce through sheriff’s sales.
Brenda Breaux with the City Attorney’s Office said the reviews are getting done, and 35 properties are ready for sale with more coming into the system shortly.
Oliver Wise, a policy director for the chief administrative officer and the city’s point man on blight, said the situation is “the biggest bottleneck to sheriff sales.”
At a news conference later in the day, Mayor Mitch Landrieu was asked by a Fox8 News reporter about the myriad systems failures, from the on-going issues with e-mail communications at City Hall to the most recent failure at the Sewerage & Water Board, which resulted in a boil-water advisory.
Landrieu jokingly said he hopes the public will understand that “none of that is my responsibility.”
He went on to speak more generally about the changes taking place at City Hall saying “nothing is going to change overnight” and that he would urge people to “think more broadly” and that “we have a long way to go.”