by Calvin Ishee
After months of delays, the Pass Christian Board of Alderman held a public hearing to determine whether or not the manufactured structure at 703 North Street should be declared a public menace. According to City Attorney Malcolm Jones, for years the City has been trying to get the structure owner, John O. Trepagnier, to repair a growing list of safety related concerns. Unfortunately, Trepagnier never made the necessary repairs and the Board was forced to take action.
Based on the results of on-site home inspections by former PC Building Code Officer Joel Sims and current Inspector Tom Duffy, Jones laid out the City’s safety and public menace concerns. They included a chronology of numerous attempts made by the City to get the problems corrected: the unstable, unsafe and unsanitary condition of the trailer and the post Katrina FEMA rules requiring the structure be elevated accordingly.
Jones called on former FEMA employee and City Consultant Charles Stallings to give his professional assessment of the trailer. Stallings stated, the structure “has significant damage and there’s no way to repair the trailer”. He further stated that if the City allowed the resident to continue living in the facility, “the City would own it in perpetuity.” The City would be required to pay to have the trailer repaired and elevated, in addition to paying annual insurance costs of between $5,000 and $10,000. He concurred with the recommendation to declare the trailer a public menace.
Jones then called on Fire Chief Dwight Gordon who stated, “the floor sags, it’s unsafe but my primary concern is the unsanitary conditions. My firefighters have to wear breathing apparatus to enter the trailer”. He noted that dog feces and dog urine reeked throughout the house and their “eyes began to burn and water” when inside the trailer.
Police Chief Daren Freeman commented that he’s “concerned for the safety of first responders”. During a call to the trailer in June of 2019, officers commented that the “smell was so bad”. Officers also mentioned their concern about “stepping through the floor”.
Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott then turned the floor over to Trepagnier for his rebuttal. Trepagnier spent over 30 minutes presenting his case to the Board. He spent much of his time contesting nearly every issue brought up by the City. He stated that “I live on only $1,400 per month and this matter is driving me to bankruptcy.” In the end, he couldn’t answer how he could bring his trailer back into compliance.
McDermott stated “we totally respect veterans but we have to go by federal rules.” The City wasn’t given an option on these rules but the City is required to follow them. Ward 1 Alderman Buddy Clarke followed up by saying, “I don’t see how we get past the FEMA rules. We’re in a box”.
After the Board voted unanimously to declare this property a public menace, Jones told Trepagnier, “I’ll be getting with you later” regarding this matter and Trepagnier responded, “good luck finding me, I’ll be on the streets.”
Although a tragic and heartbreaking situation, the Board said it was forced by both law and the factual evidence supporting the uninhabitable condition of the trailer to take this action, according to officials.
In financial matters the Board approved $462,066 for a Mississippi Development Authority CAP Loan to purchase a new fire truck; $7,700 to Building Control Systems, LLC for contract services and the Claims Docket totaling $184, 963.05.
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 16th, 6 p.m. in the City Hall Court Room.