September 17, 2020 – Minutes

Minutes          September 17, 2020 9:00 AM          Zoom Conference Call

MEETING CALLED BY:  Rodney Braxton

TYPE OF MEETING:  Build Baton Rouge (BBR) Board of Commissioners – Regular Meeting

NOTE TAKER:  Tara Titone

ATTENDEES     Attending Board Members: Rodney Braxton, Chairman; Brian Haymon, Vice Chairman; Susan Turner, Treasurer; Charles Landry

Also Attending: Christopher Tyson, BBR CEO; Tara Titone, BBR COO; Tasha Saunders, BBR Grants Director; Marla Morris, BBR Grants Fiscal Manager; Matthew Johnson, BBR Staff Attorney; Jacques Hawkins, BBR Intern; Rebekah Strickland, BBR Administrative Assistant; Heather LeBlanc, V. Graham (BBR CFO); Amanda Spain, Baker Donelson; Timothy Boone, The Advocate; Mark Drennen, CAFA; Jonathan Hill, Franklin Associates; Brian LaFleur, LaFleur Industries; Sam Sanders, MCRA; Jan Varnado, EBR Resident


DISCUSSION:  The meeting was called to order by Mr. Braxton at 9:01 AM


DISCUSSION:  The board reviewed the minutes from the August 20, 2020 meeting.

ACTION:  Mr. Landry made a motion to approve the minutes. Mrs. Turner seconded the motion. The August 20, 2020 minutes were approved unanimously

DISCUSSION:  Mrs. LeBlanc presented the board with the YTD Profit and Loss Actual vs. Budget, the Program Statement of Activity and Monthly Cash Flow Projections for the period ended August 31, 2020. There were no objections. Mrs. LeBlanc reported that BBR’s cashflow remains within budget for most expenditures. The Land Bank received income from rent payments that Electric Depot was able to resume in July and August and a property servitude that was purchased by Exxon for $30,000.

The BBR grants team has been submitting reimbursement requests timely to the City Parish, and currently there is $145,000 in outstanding draw requests to be submitted. Mr. Braxton reported that BBR originally received Metro Council approval for a $300,000 City Parish supplemental operational funding allocation, but the item was required to reappear before the Metro Council due to a public comment not being read into the record at the meeting. The item received final approval last week.

DISCUSSION:  Mr. Tyson welcomed members of the public and provided the following updates:

Real Estate/Land Bank- BBR has received a payment from Exxon for the purchase of a servitude on its Shada Plantation property. Mr. Tyson reported that there has been a lot of public interest in BBR’s land banked properties. Mr. Tyson explained that BBR’s Community Partners Program and Adjacent Lot Program are how BBR works with local developers to bring properties back into productive use and directed interested parties to for more information. BBR is currently working with the City Parish on the maintenance and cleanup of several of its prominent vacant lots along Plank Road. Federal Grants- Mr. Tyson directed the Board to the Roof Reset Program Update (attached). He reported that in Phase II, 110 homes were submitted for processing, 8 were completed and 12 are in progress. For the Home Rehabilitation program, 9 projects were recently approved by the City Parish Grants Review Committee, and BBR will issue Notices to Proceed on these in the coming days.

– Ardendale – BBR’s Choice Neighborhoods Grant work continues. EBRPHA is preparing to develop the first phase of housing at Ardendale. The MoveBR connector roadway design work is set to move forward with the City’s hiring of an engineering firm that BBR will work closely with.

– Electric Depot – Mr. Tyson explained that a recent news release reported that Red Stick Social on the Electric Depot property had closed. Mr. Tyson said he has been in regular communication with the developer, and while Red Stick Social is shrinking its operations and focusing solely on private events, they are not closing. The remainder of the Electric Depot operation continues with the continued leasing of Phase 1 commercial space and plans underway for the Phase II housing development. Mr. Tyson will continue to provide updates on the developments.

-Plank Road Master Plan – Work continues with the mixed-use Plank Calumet development. Construction drawings are complete, and the architects are moving into the permitting and public bid phase. BBR is working with BREC on the transformation of a vacant Plank Road property into a pocket park per the recommendations of the Plank Road Master Plan. Mr. Tyson expressed his appreciation to Turner Industries for issuing a $12,500 Challenge Grant to fund Plank Road implementation. Coca Cola Bottling Co. and HNTB have committed matching funds towards the effort. Mr. Tyson thanked BBR’s partners and other community donors for the support that has been received.

DISCUSSION:  No new business

DISCUSSION:  Mr. Braxton read aloud the following pubic comment received by Jan Varnado on 9/16/20:

“My questions in the September 17, 2020 meeting are in reference to Agenda III concerning Federal Grants in particular Federal Grants from Community Development Block Grants allocated to the City-Parish in partnership with Build Baton Rouge for the Roof Reset Program.
Of the 50 homes in Phase II how many roofs have been installed in Phase II? What is the processing time to go from “Waiting to be paid” and “Notice to Proceed”? My home is in Phase II, what is the status of the request for the work to be done? As of June 30, 2020 a requisition was sent to the City Parish for approval for payment. This process was supposed to take approximately 3 weeks. It has been 2 ½ months.What is holding up the funding and “Notice to Proceed” on my home at 1950 Stafford Drive, Baton Rouge, La. 70810? What time frame is HUD giving you to complete the work in this program? The deadline was August 1, 2020.“

Ms. Saunders an email response would be provided for the specific questions related to Ms Varnado’s home and provided the following information:
-Of the 50 homes, 8 have been completed out of the 54 in Phase II
-Last year when the program was conceptualized, the City Parish underwent a major administrative change. BBR experienced significant delays as a result, but 56 roofs were completed by end of January 2020. Due to COVID-19, operations at BBR and the City Parish were slowed. Once the Stay-at-Home orders were relaxed, the City Parish staff didn’t return to the office until May. BBR sent the requisitions to the City Parish at the end of May.
-The program’s internal deadline was extended as a result of the delays.

Mr. Braxton asked if HUD was aware of the delays and asked if information could be placed on the website related to roof reset. Ms. Saunders and Mr. Tyson said that BBR has maintained regular reporting and communications with HUD. HUD is aware of the administrative changes at the City Parish and the associated delays with COVID-19. BBR has sent letters explaining the delays to the Roof Reset and Home Rehabilitation grant recipients.

Mr. Braxton said that he has been asked questions about the delays and stated that people may not appreciate the complexities of the program and understand the complications that have been experienced. Mr. Tyson said that BBR would include more information on the website as a general matter and continue conversations on how BBR can make accessible its current program information, in a more automated format, for public viewing.

Mr. Braxton recognized Mr. Drennen with Capital Area Finance Authority. Mr. Drennen announced that CAFA is ready to discuss the Plank Road Project and would call a meeting with CAFA’s New Initiatives Committee when BBR was prepared to make a presentation. Mr. Tyson said he would follow up. Mr. Braxton spoke his appreciation for Board member Landry’s hard work and commitment to the Plank Road Project. Mr. Landry reported that he had a good meeting with CAFA the week prior and feels confident that BBR is on a good path on getting the Plank Road project underway.

DISCUSSION:  Mr. Tyson and the Board determined that there were no pressing items to discuss in Executive Session.

ACTION:  The Board did not move into executive session.

DISCUSSION:  Mr. Landry moved to adjourn the meeting. Mrs. Turner second the motion. Mr. Braxton adjourned the meeting at 9:27 AM.