The future of a proposed tire shredder program for East Baton Rouge Parish remains up in the air, more than three months after a leadership shakeup at the parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control District.
Under MARC’s former executive director—Todd Walker, who resigned in April under pressure from the Metro Council—the agency was planning to enter into a contract with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to purchase a tire shredder with $605,000 in federal grant funds awarded to the state by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
MARC had planned to operate the shredder program, which would presumably reduce the number of abandoned tires around the parish that serve as breeding pools for mosquitoes.
But the new executive director, Randy Veath, says MARC is no longer interested in purchasing and operating the machinery, and has subleased the warehouse space that was going to house the equipment to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. He adds that MARC wants to participate in the program by identifying and treating abandoned tire sites, as it does now.
Earlier this summer, it appeared a deal was in the works between the city-parish Department of Public Works, the state and the CDC that would enable DPW to purchase and operate the machinery.
But so far that deal hasn’t come together, likely because even if federal grant money is used to purchase a tire shredder, money needs to be appropriated to train workers, operate the equipment, store and maintain it. So far, there’s been no move from the Broome administration or Metro Council to do that.
“We thought we had a plan,” Veath says. “But I’m not sure everyone has signed on.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health says he is not aware of any specific agreements that are in the works, though the state stands ready to help facilitate a deal.
“We are waiting for a viable plan,” LDH spokesman Bob Johannessen says. “We want to see this program work. We have been supportive of the grant. We think there is a need for this tire shredder in the Greater Baton Rouge area.”
Director of transportation and Drainage Fred Raiford says he is not aware of any plans for the city-parish to take over the program.
Johannessen says state officials have requested a meeting with the mayor’s office and have been in touch with the Metro Council as well.
“Certainly we want to work with anyone ready to step up,” Johannessen says “We’re hoping to get a plan. But I’m not aware of any plan at this point.”