UNINHABITABLE; City Council criticizes rental property owner for code violations

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This is one of the rooms in an apartment building at 1203 Rusbo owned by Mike Braxton. City of Natchitoches photos

Carolyn Roy
Property owner Mike Braxton was the target of criticism at the City Council meeting Monday because of the condition of a four-plex apartment building he owns at 1203 Rusbo that houses eight units.

THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE JULY 16, 2022, PRINT EDITION.

The property owned by Braxton’s company, Braxton Rental LLC, was one of eight listed in a proposed ordinance that recommended they be demolished or repaired and put into compliance with City building codes.
The deplorable conditions include raw sewage, a leaking roof, trash-filled rooms and this bathtub in disrepair among other things.

Director of Planning and Zoning Shontrell Roque showed pictures of the deplorable conditions including raw sewage, leaking roof and trash-filled rooms. “Unfortunately, we have a gentlemen such as this who does not see the need for making sure the apartment complex that he’s provided for people to live in (is suitable).”
Roque said someone was stealing electricity by plugging rods into the utility boxes. She said when she visited the complex, one box was “red hot—-smoking.” She found that situation early in the morning and said the building could have burned with people still asleep.
Electricity theft, which could be pursued as criminal activity, was also evident at the apartments on Rusbo Street.

The City shut off the power and Braxton did just enough to get the power restored by making some repairs and installing smoke detectors. There were also no fire extinguishers in the building.
Roque said Braxton was still fighting code violations because of raw sewage. When someone flushes a toilet or fills a bath tub, they overflow.
She said the utility and fire departments have made numerous trips to the building. “This was a last resort,” Roque said about putting the building on the demolition list.
District 4 representative Rosemary Elie, in whose district the complex is located, said she had numerous complaints from neighbors.
Councilman Dale Nielsen wondered if electricity theft would be a criminal offense.
Councilperson-at-Large Betty Sawyer-Smith said the apartments had not always been in that condition and were not like that three or four years ago. “I don’t know why people are living like this.”
Sawyer-Smith said Braxton reached out to her wanting to be sure he received as much time as others had received to get the building to code. She said Braxton still has time to get a repair permit before it is demolished.
Roque submits the list of properties recommended for demolition to the City Council that votes on whether to proceed with demolition. Once they are condemned, property owners still have time to get the building up to code before they are demolished by securing a repair permit and getting the work done.

Other properties on the list included:

409 MLK

•409 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., owned by Cletus and Tamila S. Reliford, a burned trailer that has been removed.
910 West

•910 West, owned by Grant and Michael Shields, damaged by fire and is beyond repair.
801 Fourth

•801 Fourth, owned by Terrel A. Delphin Jr., damaged by fire but a repair permit has been issued.
153 Pierson

•153 Pierson, owned by Luberta Walker and Cloretha Gay, has been boarded up and is not recommended for demolition.
223 Pierson

•223 Pierson, owned by Ronnie J. Lewis, was struck by lightning, is overgrown, back part of house is missing, recommended for demolition.
1529 Stella

•1529 Stella, owned by Frank J. Raymond, is a trailer next to an abandoned trailer park; Raymond said he plans to repair the trailer but also said City, in the past, agreed to remedy rushing water by installing pipes. He said overgrowth is from property next door and is damaging his fence. He also said people shoot out the windows. Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. was to talk to Raymond after the meeting.
729 Salim
•729 Salim, owned by Dynise Colbert, is beyond repair with roof that caved in. Roque said it would cost at least $20,000 for a new roof and she was not sure the structure would support it.

***Read Michael Braxton’s response to the allegations in the Thursday, July 21 print edition.****