Baker city council encourages residents to keep ditches clean

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - In August of last year, several feet of rain pounded the City of Baker, leaving flooded homes across the city. Longtime resident, Richard Stiles, says it was a weather event unlike anything he'd seen before. "I had stuff standing up in my home and when we went back in there, it was laying down. It tore up everything."

Stiles says he and his wife ran out of money to make repairs and now they're fighting to get back in their home. He says it's a fight that possibly could have been avoided if it wasn't for clogged drains. He lives up the street from one of the main drainage systems. "When I left, I had water up to my ankles," Stiles recalled of standing outside his home during the storm.

Baker City Council President Glenda Bryant says District 3 was one of the worst hit areas in the city. She says some 95 percent of homes were destroyed, while only 75 percent of families have returned. Bryant says city crews began correcting those drainage issues months ago. "They pulled out some hefty articles of drains and ditches, like fans and leftover materials, that really should not be in the drainage system," she said.

But now, the city needs help from residents. Tuesday night, Bryant says the council voted to amend an ordinance that will hopefully encourage people to make sure their drains and ditches are clear on a regular basis. "As the water came up, it did not recede and so after the flood, it made us consider what exactly happened. What's really our major problem," she asked.

The ordinance says in part, "No person shall impede or obstruct the passage or flow of water over or on any street, gutter, ditch, or drain, or on any property, whether owned by the City of Baker, the Parish of East Baton Rouge…"

"If you have a drain or ditch next to your home, you need to make sure it's free of debris," Bryant added. She says this ordinance, "Allows our state legislators to fight for us on a federal level because we have done what we're supposed to do at home."

Stiles says he thinks the amended ordinance is the right move for the city.

Baker officials say if people don't keep drains or ditches clean, they could face a small fine. The first offense comes with a warning, the second is a $50 fine, while the third offense is $100. Bryant says the goal is to make residents more aware of the drainage issues and hopefully not collect a lot of money from fines.

"This is just to remind them that if the wind blows, if it rains, it moves this debris to our drains and it becomes a part of the system that can back up and cause our city to flood."

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