Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks wants to install East Baton Rouge Parish’s proposed tire shredder on 2 acres of property in Baker, on the north maintenance lot at 3207 Main Street, marking the latest development in a saga over where the tire shredder should be located.
She’s bringing forth a resolution advocating for the move, which will be up for discussion at next Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting. Banks has claimed that locating the tire shredder on the airport-owned, industrially zoned Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control District property near the parish prison—which the council unanimously approved in late September, though four members (including Banks) were absent—is an example of environmental injustice.
“Since October, I’ve had at least four items on the agenda indicating how destructive and environmentally racist it is to have a tire shredder in ZIP code 70807, considering the negatives and sacrifices that the residents of [the northern part of the parish] have made on behalf of the entire parish over the last 40 years,” says Banks, whose request to meet with MARC board members did not receive any responses.
So, why Baker? According to Banks, it’s because Mayor Sharon Weston Broome offered up the rural, sparsely populated site as a potential alternative to the airport-owned property.
However, Broome’s spokesman, Mark Armstrong, says the administration is still considering “many locations” and isn’t married to one as of this afternoon. He declined to specify how many or which other locations are being examined.
“We don’t want this opportunity to slip through our fingers,” Armstrong says.
At risk is a $605,000 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant to fund the program, which MARC has to spend by June 30 or else it could lose the money.
The proposed tire shredder reflects an effort to address Baton Rouge’s growing problem with waste tires, which contribute to blight in underserved neighborhoods and serve as breeding pools for disease-bearing mosquitoes. While terms of the grant award require that MARC buy the machine and administer the program, Baum Environmental Services has agreed to operate the shredder for the parish for free in return for the processed scrap, which it would sell at a profit.
Councilman Matt Watson, who approached Baum about operating the shredder, says the Baker site is a bad location and notes the urgency of the issue, which is exacerbated by the fact that an order for the tire shredder must be placed by April 1.
“It’s too far away from the ground zero of our tire dumping problem,” Watson says. “Anyone who looks at the 311 reports where residents file complaints to get tires picked up can plainly see the highest density of those complaints is far, far south of that property.”
He says he’s talking with Councilwoman Tara Wicker and private entities to see if the proposed location could be moved farther south.
Meanwhile, MARC interim director Randy Vaeth says the Baker property would be fine with the agency, adding it’s “flexible” with the options. Still, he echoes Watson’s concerns.
“Everything is moving so glacially slow that if this doesn’t pick up speed, there’s a good chance the money will be directed in a different area,” Vaeth says. “LDH will find another use for it, and there are plenty of things MARC could use.”