Corps Of Engineers Re-Evaluating Demo Lists Across Coast

"This would be nice if we could just get started with it," Pascagoula homeowner Lynn Newman says as she looks over her new house plans.

The only thing standing between Newman and her new home is the existing one.

"We've been waiting since January. We though everything was going well. We though we did the right thing. We didn't, I guess," Newman says.

That's because yesterday Newman found out her wait was in vain. Although there's mold everywhere and gaps in the walls, the Army Corps is not going to be tearing her Pascagoula home down.

"I feel like I've been duped."

But Newman isn't the only one. Pascagoula building official Steve Mitchell says roughly 9 out of every 10 homes in the city slated for demolition will soon be taken off the Corps's list.

FEMA officials say homes have to be "structurally unsound" to be taken down on the government's tab.

"We based our decisions on a policy letter," Steve Mitchell says.

Mitchell says the originally FEMA policy the city received said homes had to either pose a health threat, a threat to neighboring properties, or hinder the city's economic development.

Now more than 300 homes have been demolished.

"This is one that does not meet their criteria," Mitchell says, pointing to one home that will be taken off the list.

Mitchell says the integrity requirement is allowing homes like that one to continue to stand.

"If we don't demolish them now, then they become a blight on the neighborhood."

And a pain for the homeowners like Newman, who is now stuck with the six-month old mess.

"The mold has had time to grow, spread, and be a nuisance. It would be almost nearly impossible to do it now," Newman says. "I don't think it's fair."

Only about 20 of the 200 Pascagoula homes on the demo list now will make the final list.

FEMA's Jackson County point person says the re-evaluation of homes slated to be torn down is happening in every city. And not all city officials say that's a bad thing.

In Moss Point, ten of the 80 homes on the demolition list will be scratched off.

Mayor Xavier Bishop says that's good for the city.

"I welcome a re-evaluation of the current demolition practices if only because too many vacant lots can project a negative image onto a city. You can look at all of the vacant lots along downtown Moss Point to see how difficult it can be to replace structures once they've been torn down," Moss Point Mayor Xavier Bishop says.

FEMA officials say the requirements were outlined at the start of the demolition process, but the rules are subject to some interpretation. And FEMA tells us some cities are using looser interpretations.

There is an appeals process for cities to ask FEMA to reconsider properties taken off the list.