NEW ORLEANS - A home elevation company we’ve been investigating was kicked out of the state’s troubled Hazard Mitigation Grant Program on Thursday.
The state has received several complaints about NTP Construction LA LLC, a New Orleans-based company. Homeowners say they’ve had to wait months, even more than a year in one case, for NTP to finish elevation jobs paid with public money.
Those homeowners got to testify to state administrators Thursday, and program director, Craig Taffaro, said the panel took quick action.
“The homeowners presented their concerns, the owner of the company NTP had his opportunity to present to the panel as well, and the panel took all that information into consideration and decided that they would disqualify NTP from participation in the grant program any further,” Taffaro said.
NTP owner Don Rawls declined to answer questions at the Hazard Mitigation offices. He referred us to NTP’s lawyer, Don Rouzan.
Rouzan said Rawls was not given a chance to confront his accusers. The state program’s sanctions panel listened to the homeowners and Rawls separately.
Rouzan added that "NTP has done all they could to meet the obligations set forth by the HMGP (home mitigation program) and their duties to their customers."
Meanwhile, the difficulties aren’t over for the affected homeowners. Brenda Ohrabka of Gretna said she caught NTP forging her name on a termite control agreement in order to get their final grant payment.
Ohrabka also recorded an NTP executive telling her she did not have to pay on a $30,000 promissory note – something elevation companies are forbidden from doing because it allows homeowners to collect double benefits.
But at least Ohrabka’s house was finished. Samantha and James Carey of Milneburg weren’t so lucky. NTP has been working on their house since September 2011. They can’t get insurance because it’s still considered “under construction.”
Rather, they say it’s gone from a beautifully appointed and meticulously maintained house to one that’s dangerous to walk around in.
It is rife with large cracks, warped and slanted floors, ill-fitting doors and holes where one can see through the floor and clear out to the ground below. The steep front steps have no handrail.
“All this is damaged from when NTP did the construction at my home, lifting it,” Samantha Carey said. “The floors, as you can see. Just about every room in the house is damaged.”
The kitchen is so sloped that when they open the dishwasher, the whole unit falls out of the cabinet cavity.
The Careys said the state officials promised to send an engineer to their house and arrange for a different contractor to finish the job.