Red Tape Awaits Cottage Recipients In Harrison County

Close to 100 Katrina Cottages sit at a site on Landon Road in Gulfport waiting to replace FEMA trailers around the area.

A month ago, Buddy Lassabe found out one was on the way to him, in just three days. Lassabe is still waiting.

"I was all excited and liberated and you know I felt good but it's all a let down. I'm now right back at the same ole stress rut you know. I don't feel good at all," Buddy Lassabe said.

So why the hold up? Lassabe's property is in a flood zone and Harrison County will only allow a temporary cottage to go in if it's elevated to meet the same requirements of a permanent home.

Lassabe's sister-in-law Henrietta is helping him negotiation the red tape.

"He has no money to move it up 11 feet. It's not permanent. This is suppose to be temporary," Henrietta Lassabe said.

MEMA, which is running the alternative housing program, says FEMA waived the elevation rules for the temporary cottages, as long as people live in them no longer than 18 months.

A MEMA spokesperson told WLOX News that Harrison County is the only city or county requiring the temporary cottages to be elevated in flood zones.

Harrison County Code Administration Director Richard Herrin says elevation is a matter of safety.

"If MEMA needs to put it there, then I feel like it should meet the same requirements that a regular home or a house trailer would meet," Herrin said. "I feel uncomfortable to put one in there. If something would happen, who would be responsible for that person?"

Even though the cottages are built stronger than trailers, when people move into their cottages, MEMA requires them to sign a promise to evacuate in the event of a hurricane. But Code Director Herrin says Harrison County needs some kind of guarantee.

"If MEMA wants to take that responsibility and place it there, I have no problem with that," Herrin said.

Thursday, Lassabe will plead his case to the Harrison County Planning Commission. And officials say they are trying to find some volunteers to build the pilings needed to elevate the cottage.

"I've heard several times, 'We're in extraordinary times right now.' We need to have some extraordinary decisions made. No one wants to step up to the plate and make that decision," Henrietta Lassabe said.

"Tired of waiting. I'm about to give out, burn out. I can't handle much more of it," Buddy Lassabe said.

MEMA officials tell us they're pleased overall with the progress of the cottage program and they expect delivery to speed up because more two and three bedroom cottages will arrive this week.