FOX 8 DEFENDERS: From flooding to poor lighting, church volunteers frustrated

From repeated street flooding to poor lighting, some church volunteers are growing frustrated. They’re concerned those issues will have an impact on their place of worship.
Updated: Sep. 6, 2019 at 9:49 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - On a hot New Orleans day, Dan Akers helps maintain the grounds of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Noel Leaumont clears the sidewalk and street of litter.

The two men are retirees who volunteer to care for the place of worship. “We do inside and out of the church,” Akers said.

Built in the 1860′s, the church on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard is a designated historic landmark. It’s a fixture along the Pontchartrain Expressway with its gold dome and beautiful stained glass windows.

When the sun goes down though, Akers says while the church parking lot is all lit up, the street is dark. The only street light on Clio Street adjacent to the church’s property appears dim, especially when you compare it to blocks nearby where the lights appear to be fully working.

“People come under the fence and they come onto the property. They’ve broken windows on the church on the Calliope Street side.. we just got em fixed,” Akers said. The darkness, he believes, leads to other concerns. “We find needles out here. We find liquor bottles all the time. It’s just not a good situation,” Akers said. He stressed, there’s a Head Start program for three, four and five-year-olds in the building across the street.

Akers shared a formal City of New Orleans 311 service request about lighting concerns made in March of 2018, and said he's made several calls.

On top of a dark city street, recent flooding twice in as many months also concerns them. “The water is up over the curb,” Akers said.

FOX 8 captured video of the area during heavy rain on August 26th. You couldn’t tell where the street stopped and the sidewalk started. Waves of water lapped against storefronts. A couple of men were seen walking in knee deep water to try to get by.

“When you come down the Interstate off the Loyola exit, this whole area is.. underwater.. you can’t go anywhere,” Akers explained. Besides cleaning up what seems to be constant trash, they try to keep the drains clean. “It took me two and a half hours. I was out here working on the drains, but I’m 73-years-old. I can only do so much,” Akers said.

He and Leaumont spread the word about a new Sunday mass, but worry the lack of lights and recent flooding will only turn people off.

“You’re the hope I had. I even told the priest I’m gonna call Channel 8 because I know they’ll come. I said I hope they’ll come.. because we work very hard around here, and we try to keep the area clean. It just gets to be a tiring situation,” Akers explained.

The City Department of Public Works’ online catch basin maintenance map shows about eight drains along Calliope as you exit the interstate are still awaiting inspection. It shows four catch basins on Clio were cleaned in 2017.

We’ve reached out to the City for comment. We have not received a response.

If you’ve got a consumer issue you want us to address, call the Fox 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women, the NCJW or, fill out our online complaint form.

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