Metro Councilman Matt Watson has introduced a measure that would effectively require the interim director of the parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control district to sign documents allowing the parish to accept federal grant money to fund the purchase of a tire shredder.
A resolution that will be placed as an emergency item on the Aug. 7 council agenda “directs” the assistant or interim director of MARC to “execute and accept a grant award and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Louisiana Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which will provide funds and/or equipment for a tire shredder and associated site cost.”
Earlier this week, MARC Interim Director Randy Veath said his agency is no longer interested in operating the costly tire shredder program that was initiated by his predecessor, Todd Walker, and, in fact, has leased unused warehouse space that would have housed the shredder to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Can the council force the agency director to sign something he doesn’t want to?
“He works for us,” Watson says.
Perhaps more importantly, Watson notes, MARC has to accept the grant funds and purchase the shredder, even if it ultimately passes responsibility for the program on to some other city-parish agency or farms it out to a private company, because MARC is the named recipient of the $605,000 grant the CDC awarded to the state on behalf of the parish earlier this year.
“MARC is the designated recipient of the money,” Watson says. “Their name is on the grant application. If they don’t sign this cooperative endeavor agreement, we risk losing the grant to fund the shredder.”
The shredder is intended to reduce the number of abandoned tires around the parish that serve as breeding pools for mosquitoes and also cut down on the abandoned tire piles in already blighted neighborhoods.
State officials are also concerned about the impasse that appears to have jeopardized the federal award. The Louisiana Department of Health has called a meeting for Aug. 5 with representatives from the Broome administration, Metro Council and MARC to try to figure out how to move forward.