John Mitchell, president of Community Interaction Consulting, discusses Sasol’s Voluntary Property Purchase Program to Mossville residents. (Frank DiCesare / American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, August 17, 2013 4:32 PM
Sasol is ready to buy properties from residents in the Mossville area, but the homeowners have many questions and they want answers.
That was the situation Friday morning as Mossville residents met with representatives from Community Interaction Consulting to learn about Sasol’s Voluntary Property Purchase Program, which was launched last Monday. Sasol’s program is seeking Mossville and Brentwood residents who want to sell their property to the petrochemical company for what has been described as better than fair market value.
“I’ll admit to you straight up this is probably one of the most generous, most comprehensive, property purchase programs we have ever administered,” said John C. Mitchell, president of CIC. He presented a one-hour PowerPoint presentation to more than 20 residents at the former Mossville Elementary School.
CIC is the Buckhead, Ga.-based firm in charge of managing Sasol’s program. The Mossville program is the fifth one CIC has managed in Louisiana.
“There are some components in this program that we have not seen in other programs,” Mitchell said. “We have shared with Sasol the best practices that other companies have used, and we have incorporated them in this program.”
Mitchell often stopped his presentation to answer questions from residents about the program’s appraisal process. Under the program, residents will sell their property to Sasol for a price that is based on an average of two to three appraisals.
The average appraised price will be based on the two highest appraisals residents receive on their property.
CIC officials will get the first two appraisals from each resident. If the amounts are within 10 percentage points of each other, an average of the two will be taken to calculate Sasol’s offer. If the difference in the appraisals is greater than 10 percentage points, CIC will order a third appraisal and average the two highest amounts.
The program also has a minimum appraised price of $100,000 for all owner-occupied homes. Rental property owners will be given a minimum appraised price of $75,000. Owners of unimproved properties will receive a minimal appraisal of $5,000.
Mitchell said that if the average appraised price for a home comes in below the minimum amount, CIC will begin to calculate Sasol’s offer at the minimum and owners will get a percentage of the average appraised price.
Residents who participate in the program are given a list of nearly 40 appraisers culled from the Louisiana Real Estate Commission’s website and are asked to choose three to appraise their property. Residents can also hire appraisers who are not on the list provided they are licensed in Louisiana and practice full time locally. CIC will pay for all appraisals done in the program.
Residents who register for the program and submit the program’s Renter Benefits Request Form before Oct. 4 are eligible for a $1,000 early sign-up bonus, which will be paid at the property’s closing.
Requesting an appraisal does not obligate homeowners to sell their property to Sasol, Mitchell said.
Residents also voiced concern that Sasol’s offer to purchase will be non-negotiable. Mitchell said CIC has managed 20 property purchase programs for companies like Shell, Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil, none of which were based on a negotiated price.
But Edward Julia Gordwin, a 76-year-old woman who was named after her father, said just because companies didn’t negotiate with homeowners in the past “doesn’t make it right.”
“Right is right and wrong is wrong,” said Gordwin, who has lived in Mossville her entire life. “Everything you have should be negotiable. God gave us that right, and state and federal law gives you that right.”
Victoria Guy said her property on Evergreen Road contains oil. She added that her side of Evergreen “is the richest part” and should demand a higher price from Sasol.
“The oil is under our feet; it’s on our property,” she said. “Sasol can buy the property and separate my mineral rights. If they want to buy my mineral rights, then give me a higher price or give me a lease so I can have something in the future for my children and grandchildren.”
Sasol did not send a representative to Friday’s meeting. Mitchell said residents who have questions for Sasol should submit them, along with their name and phone number, to Bo Gauthiar, a CIC representative with an office at the former Mossville Elementary School. Gauthiar will present their questions and contact information to a Sasol representative, who will get in touch with them.
Residents can learn more about Sasol’s Voluntary Property Purchase Program at www.sasolvppp.com. The website also contains a program booklet that was distributed at Friday’s meeting.
The program will run until Dec. 4.