BR.mlk2020project.012020.003

Helena Williams, with MLK Day 2020 Project, rolls a discarded tire to the trash pile, on Sunday, during the organizations neighborhood painting and trash cleanup at an empty lot on Chippewa St. and Plank road.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council unanimously agreed Wednesday to locate the city-parish's tire shredding facility at the North Maintenance Lot in Baker, settling a monthslong dispute that frequently consumed the council in acrimonious debate. 

The facility was originally slated to be built on a 1-acre property leased by the Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control facility near the Baton Rouge Metro Airport.

That faced pushback from Councilwoman Chauna Banks, who argued the site overloaded her predominantly black, low-income district with unwanted industry. The new location — on two acres at 3207 Main Street — moves the facility out of Banks' district. 

The tire shredder will be funded through a $605,000 federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at tamping down on the region's mosquito population.

It will be operated at virtually no cost to the taxpayer by Baum Environmental Group, a private firm that plans to sell the processed tires for use in erosion prevention and consumer goods.

Councilman Matt Watson, a longtime champion of the shredder, said that although the new location is "much less practical," he's glad that the site selection process has been put to rest.

He added that he believes Banks squandered an opportunity to welcome more than a dozen well-paying jobs to her district. 

As was the case with previous tires shredder discussions, Wednesday's meeting wasn't without its own show of fireworks.

"I would make a substitute motion to get this program as far away from Councilwoman Banks' district as possible," Watson joked at one point during the meeting. 

That prompted Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson to urge the body to "stay on the ball" and "get moving."

Councilman Dwight Hudson said, "If we as a body cannot come to an agreement and move past on this issue and get this job done, then I would say let's bring the tires here because that's about all this body would be good for at that point."

And Councilwoman Tara Wicker added, "If we can agree, my lord Jesus, let's do it."

Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater