The high winds and downpours from May 19 storms that swept through Baton Rouge are long gone, but tree limbs and other storm debris have remained piled on some neighborhoods’ street corners for the past few weeks.
The city-parish has doubled up on its cleanup efforts and officials say a specialty storm debris removal contractor should have the worst of it cleared by the end of this week.
In addition to the usual garbage pickup from Republic Services, which can pick up smaller piles of debris, the city-parish has also called in help from DRC Emergency Services to help clear the hardest-hit areas, mostly in the southeastern part of the parish.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council approved the agreement for DRC on Wednesday, with Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe saying his office has been swamped by residents wondering when their tree limbs will be taken away.
DRC charges $6 a cubic yard, and Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel said he expects the service to cost the city between $500,000 to $800,000, though the exact cost will not be known until after the service is complete.
“When we activate DRC and it’s not a state of emergency in the parish, we don’t get reimbursed,” Daniel said. “Everything we pick up costs the taxpayers to pick up.”
But the split in responsibilities among the two contractors has caused confusion among residents about who should be picking up their debris and when to expect the pickup, according to Metro Council members.
DRC has been helping with storm cleanup since June 1, though the council only approved a contract with the company this week.
The contractor started in the Shenandoah and White Oak neighborhoods before moving June 6 into the Tiger Bend Road and South Harrells Ferry Road areas.
The company expected to move Thursday through the Highland Lakes and North Oak Hills subdivisions, along with the Highland Road, Bluebonnet Boulevard, Perkins Road and Siegen Lane areas.
But DRC can pick up only storm debris, and will bypass any piles mixed with other garbage. Republic, which picks up garbage twice a week, should still be picking up trash and small, hand-assembled piles of storm debris, Daniel said.
Metro Council aides said at Wednesday’s meeting that their offices had received many calls from people saying Republic bypassed their storm debris, telling them DRC would pick it up instead. But city-parish leaders said that’s incorrect, and that Republic is still ultimately responsible for clearing debris.
William Patrick Sr., the city’s public works operations manager, said Republic can generally pick up piles that are “smaller than a Volkswagen.” Piles larger than that would require Republic’s specialty brush trucks or the services of DRC.
City-parish leaders also said they have had problems with private contractors who lie to residents about clearing their yards. Daniel and Patrick said private contractors who clear yards should not leave the debris on street curbs, and that they city-parish is not obligated to pick up debris if a private contractor has done the work for a homeowner.
“If you know that you’re paying someone to do a job, pay them to take it all the way off,” Patrick said.
Patrick and Daniel also said residents should ensure their storm debris is in a separate pile from their regular garbage, or else it will not be picked up.
Debris on vacant lots that are not adjudicated also will not be picked up, Daniel said. He said the city-parish cannot go on private property to pick up the debris on vacant lots, and that the matter becomes an issue for blight court.
Daniel encouraged people who see piles of debris that have not been picked up to report them through the Red Stick 3-1-1 app. The app uses geolocation services to tell crews where they need to go.