East Baton Rouge’s proposed tire shredder will be located on 2 acres of property near the Baker/Zachary boundary, on the north maintenance lot at 3207 Main Street.
Last night, the Metro Council unanimously approved a resolution brought forth by Chauna Banks advocating for the Baker site to house the tire shredder. The move comes after months of political debate over where the tire shredder should be located.
In late September, the council unanimously approved locating the tire shredder on the airport-owned, industrially zoned Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control District property near the parish prison. However, four council members, including Banks, were absent from the meeting, leading Banks to challenge the vote by arguing the proposed location marked an example of environmental injustice.
“I’m satisfied with the way [Wednesday’s vote] went, but I think we need to pay better attention to how land usage often determines how a community can thrive economically,” Banks says. “We’re still suffering from the way it was handled a long time ago, when African Americans didn’t have a voice.”
Wanting to explore other location options, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome intervened, eventually offering the rural Baker site as a possible alternative to the airport-owned property.
Mark Armstrong, spokesman for the mayor’s office, agrees that while the tire shredder program has always been a council-led initiative, the Broome administration played a key role in finding a location. Acknowledging “not everyone’s happy” with the decision, he says the administration did what it could.
“It was important to [Broome] that we get the deal done before we lose the opportunity,” Armstrong says. “We were looking at other locations right up to the end.”
To fund the program, MARC must spend a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant totaling $605,000 before June 30, or else it loses the money.
Before last night’s meeting, the administration learned that another location it was eyeing wasn’t feasible because a private entity associated with the site did not want to participate, Armstrong says.
Councilman Matt Watson vocally opposed Banks’ proposal and favored locating the shredder in the southern part of the parish, where residents filed the most complaints about tires. He had also approached Baum Environmental Services about operating the shredder for free in return for the processed scrap, which it would sell at a profit. Baum had previously agreed to the terms, which also included MARC buying the machine and administering the program.
“Even though the location is much less practical toward solving the waste tire problem, I’m glad that we have put site selection behind us,” Watson says.
Meanwhile, MARC interim director Randy Vaeth says he’s pleased with the decision. While LDH must still approve the new location, Vaeth has been assured by the medical entomologist there that any location that worked for MARC would work for LDH.
“Baum can utilize any place as long as we have space for the shredder and a building,” Vaeth says. “There’s quite a bit of acreage at the north maintenance lot.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Matt Watson, who responded to a request for comment after Daily Report AM published.