Temporary toilets cost taxpayers $360K

Editor's Note: While this report deals only with portable toilets, WAFB will air a report Thursday at 10pm that examines all costs associated with food stamp distribution sites including catering of meals for state employees. That report will also be posted on wafb.com.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Hundreds of temporary toilets set up for one week at food stamp distribution sites for East Baton Rouge Parish recipients will cost taxpayers $360,214, according to records examined by the 9News I-Team.

The state only had a few days to set up six locations for people in East Baton Rouge Parish to sign up for emergency food stamps after Hurricane Isaac. The program is known as DSNAP.

In setting up the program, Louisiana's Department of Children & Family services were on a mission to drastically improve services from the level where they were four year prior, following Hurricane Gustav. That's when there were extremely long lines and few restroom facilities at many distribution sites. The fiasco, in 2008, eventually led to the resignation of the head of that state agency.

Workers say the improvements they made this time around were tremendous and led to most recipients being serviced in less than 30 minutes. "What you saw was a smooth operation," said Children and Family services spokesman Trey Williams.  

Four of the six distribution sites for East Baton Rouge Parish already had working permanent restrooms so not as many portable toilets were needed at those locations. The state sent a dozen or fewer toilets to each of those locations. However, 82 temporary toilets were sent to the former Walmart in Baker and 112 were delivered to the Old Sam's Club on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge. Neither of those locations had permanent toilets available, Williams said.

"In sheltering, we do one toilet for every 25 people in the site," Williams said.  "For DSNAP, we actually raised that to one toilet for every 35 people."

Williams says contracts for items like temporary toilets are put in place many months in advance to make sure the items are available when needed and can be delivered with very short notice.

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