The ongoing controversy over a tire shredder program proposed for East Baton Rouge Parish may seem relatively inconsequential. But little things often speak volumes about local government, writes Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her new opinion piece.
The issue dates back more than a year, when Todd Walker, then-executive director of the parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control district, applied for a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to buy a tire shredder. The idea was to address Baton Rouge’s growing problem with waste tires, which contribute to blight in underserved neighborhoods and serve as breeding ponds for disease-bearing mosquitoes.
It seemed like a good idea, and Walker, working through the state department of health, secured the grant, which totals more than $600,000.
But concerns over his pricey plans to build out a facility to house the shredder on MARC property, as well as other questions about excessive spending at MARC’s swank new offices near the airport, led Metro Council members to pressure Walker to resign.
Following his resignation, the city found a plan B for the shredder and in September the Metro Council unanimously agreed to a deal. Except that weeks later a councilmember, who was not in attendance for the vote, brought the deal into question again, alleging that the shredder’s location is an environmental injustice, further delaying implementation.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking. MARC has to spend its $600,000 grant by June 30 or it loses the money, Riegel writes.
It wouldn’t be the first time Baton Rouge has missed out on free money because of politics. Read Riegel’s full column, in which she details what has happened so far in the tire shredder saga, and why the allegations about its location are off-base.