Days into its operation, the temporary site for flood-related debris in south Baton Rouge looked nearly like a fully-fledged landfill this week, with remnants of people's households already piled stories high as dump trucks rumbled into the expansive site.
The debris at the site, tucked away on a small street at 15400 Old Perkins Road West, will be compacted and eventually moved a second time to its final spot at Ronaldson Field, each chunk of it adding to the cost the city-parish is paying for its removal.
Though taxpayers won't be footing most of the bill — 90 percent of the amount is set to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the city-parish will still pay millions out of its rainy-day fund.
On Wednesday, the Metro Council will consider appropriating some $47 million for flood relief, most of which is expected to be reimbursed, but that's only a preliminary estimate of the total needed because debris collection is still ongoing.
The various layers of contractors needed to do the work are part of why the amount is so high.
Debris contractor DRC Emergency Services, the company hired by the city-parish, is making about $14 million on the project so far, based on an estimate by Mark LeBlanc, assistant public works director for capital improvements in the city-parish. For every cubic yard hauled, DRC makes $13.98, plus $3.10 a cubic yard for processing at a temporary staging site, according to its contract.
DRC, in turn, has hired roughly 50 subcontractors to help with the operation, but paying those firms shouldn't add to the bill to the city-parish, said DRC vice president Mark Stafford. For debris housed at a staging site, the company doesn't make additional money for the second haul, to the landfill.
The firm hired to check on how DRC is hauling the debris — and making sure the process meets FEMA standards — will earn roughly 20 percent of what DRC charges, said Linda Hunt of the city-parish finance office. That means the monitoring company, Thompson Consulting Services, could get paid about $2.8 million just on the debris that's been hauled so far.
A separate outfit, CSRS Inc., is to be paid $900,000 to handle the paperwork and accounting required so the city-parish can be reimbursed by FEMA, based on the proposal before the Metro Council.
About 1 million cubic yards of debris have been collected in Baton Rouge and unincorporated parts of the parish, putting this summer's flood somewhere between the level of a Category 1 and Category 2 hurricane in terms of damage generated, based on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers model cited in DRC's contract. Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane. One house's debris might total about 50 cubic yards, just on the first round.
In the small cities within East Baton Rouge Parish, debris collection is in various stages of completion, with Zachary nearing its finish. On Monday, that city, where some 450 homes were flooded, will begin its fourth and final pass of debris pickup using the contractor Ceres, said Chris Calbert, Zachary's chief administrative officer. He couldn't provide an estimate of how much money the city has spent on flood relief as of Tuesday.
In Baker, which dropped its initial contractor, Neighborhood Restoration of Baton Rouge LLC, after the first few days of pickup and hired DRC instead, has spent about $375,000 in debris cleanup so far, that city's administrative officer Julie McCulloch said. About 930 homes were affected, with about 14,000 cubic yards of debris picked up, said Herman Dungan IV, the operations manager for Debris Tech, the city's monitoring firm.
Over in Central, where possibly 80 to 90 percent of the city's 11,174 structures were affected in the floods, debris clearing has cost $2.5 million thus far, said Mayor Jr. Shelton. About 172,000 cubic yards have been picked up on the first pass, he said, which is about 10 days away from being completed. After that, clearing crews will work on their second and third rounds of hauling away the detritus, Shelton said.