BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After a deal which would’ve brought a tire-shredding facility to East Baton Rouge Parish officially fell through, some are pointing fingers about who exactly is to blame.
Some progress on the program was being made back in February, but that has since come to a halt.
Councilman Matt Watson, who is running for mayor-president in November, says the current mayor-president, Sharon Weston Broome, is to blame.
Earlier in 2020, the EBR Metro Council finally agreed to bring a tire shredder to Baton Rouge. But there’s been so much back and forth over exactly where to put it.
And now because the deal has fallen through, there’s really no telling what’s next.
“Had high high hopes, not only for my area but in all this area, that we could’ve gotten these tires taken care of,” said Donnie Leger, owner of Cajun Seafood Express.
Leger’s business is on the corner of North Flannery and Florida Blvd. in Baton Rouge.
He also leases the property surrounding his business, and boy is there a mess back there.
“What happened was we did move some of the tires from upfront to here when we evicted the guy. After that, it seemed like the tires grew from that on. We recently put up a gate and locked it up at night,” said Leger.
He says the stack of tires is just a plain nuisance.
Leger believed a tire shredder in Baton Rouge would have helped deal with a lot of the debris, blight, and mosquito problems in the Red Stick.
“I inherited this, so where do I come up with x amount of dollars to shred all these tires,” said Leger.
Metro Councilman Matt Watson, District 11, spear-headed the project, which he believes would’ve helped with blight and mosquito control throughout the parish. He’s shifting the blame for the local contractor pulling out of the deal, on Mayor-President Broome and others.
“They were worried they didn’t have a location, they couldn’t cover the dollars not knowing where it’s going to go. It would take at least 60 days or more to construct a shredder and have it brought somewhere. That’s ample enough time to have the dollars encumbered which would satisfy a grant, and to go out and inspect the property,” said Watson.
In Broome’s statement, she responded to the attacks that she had dropped the ball on the project.
“What I will not do is take the blame for a matter that the state and federal government had not fully approved. Councilman Watson’s lack of effort has prohibited our city from this opportunity, not my administration.”
Metro Councilwoman for District 2 Chauna Banks says she did not want the project in her district, near the aiport.
“We didn’t want to have a situation across from the airport having a parish prison and a tire shredder. We want it to be like every other area where there’s an airport, there’s retail, where there’s a hotel, where there are shops, anything for travelers,” said Banks.
“Every time someone changes their tires, there’s an opportunity for four more tires to get out into the world, and some portion of those may end up in a situation like this,” said Watson.
A spokesperson with the Mayor-President’s office tells me they are not sure if there is a future for the project.
But for now, the Department of Public Works will continue trying to pick up tires in neighborhoods across East Baton Rouge Parish.
“The ‘political dysfunction’ from the mayor’s office that the chosen contractor cited in pulling out from our first-in-the-nation tire shredder program marks another opportunity lost by the current mayor-president to make our community better,” said Watson. “I have worked tirelessly to secure this $605,000 federal grant and establish a location for a tire shredder that would remove blight and improve public sanitation by bringing our federal tax dollars back to our community. There were hurdles put before me at every turn by a political establishment that would rather wring its hands than take action for people here in our community.”
However, Mayor Broome refutes this claim.
“It is typical in political seasons for candidates to blame the opposition for their failures. The truth is, this was a botched effort by Councilman Watson that my office attempted to resolve. He had neither the will nor the capability to make this project a reality. Councilman Watson prefers to talk about ideas while letting others do the work," Broome said in a statement released Tuesday, Sept. 15. “My office only stepped up to find a solution to this issue that was at a stalemate, due to Councilman Watson’s inability to work across party lines with his fellow council members. What I will not do is take the blame for a matter that the state and the federal government had not fully approved. Councilman Watson’s lack of effort has prohibited our city from this opportunity, not my administration.”
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