‘We’re looking at longstanding needs’ - Millions more federal funds going to fix drainage, fight crime

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 10:37 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will soon make a decision, on whether or not, to approve Mayor-President Broome’s plan to spend $73 million, from the second round of American Rescue Plan payments.

“The mayor’s trying to make sure that the money’s used very strategically. We’re looking at longstanding needs,” said Darryl Gissel, EBR Chief Administrative Officer.

The city-parish is thinking big for this money they’re getting from the federal government.

The main focuses include fixing our poor drainage, covering revenue loss from COVID-19, and tools to try and help keep you safe.

“There are about 75 crime cameras that will go up around the parish. Those really do help us in hot spots. There are also programs in this pot for BRPD. There’s about 2 million for community policing, which will be used for all of the law enforcement agencies, trying to focus on those hotspots,” said Gissel.

It includes millions of dollars for new patrol units and other crime-fighting equipment for BRPD.

“Any of those funds that we can save, can be reprogrammed into salary increases that are badly needed for police officers,” said Gissel.

Millions of dollars are headed for equipment and facility upgrades for the Baton Rouge Fire Department.

And there’s about $20 million going towards more drainage improvements.

“We have about $746 million worth of drainage projects coming to East Baton Rouge Parish. The funds out of this plan, will help us do basic maintenance on those drainage plans, cleaning out storm drains, etc.,” said Gissel.

“Are we making smart investments in equipment? In facilities and our infrastructure, that will return dividends to us in the future,” said Rowdy Gaudet, EBR Metro Councilman for District 3.

Gaudet is pleased with the plan so far, to spend the dollars.

“The bulk of the funds the administration put towards drainage and public safety. So, for me, those are the two priorities that I think this community is asking for attention to,” said Gaudet.

The city-parish has to get council approval and let the federal government know what they’re spending the money on.

“They’ll be another round of funding coming up probably after the first of the year, around April or May. It’s a total of $168 million that’s allocated,” said Gissel.

According to Gissel, BRPD used to have a popular program called, ‘The Baton Rouge Athletic League.’

It helped form relationships in the community, between kids and officers.

It’s been defuncted since the 1980′s but will be making a return because of these funds.

Below is the full breakdown for where the latest round of funding will go towards:

$20 million for additional drainage improvements:

o $6 million for drainage box and pipe cleaning

o $1 million for roadside drainage cave-ins

o $1 million for roadside ditch cleaning

o $1.4 million for engineering/project management

o $5 million for Jones Creek Watershed drainage improvements

o $5.6 million for channel clearing and grubbing

$14.2 million for Community Violence Intervention Initiatives:

o $1.8 million to increase and enhance the BRPD’s technological capabilities, benefiting law enforcement throughout East Baton Rouge Parish including automated license plate readers and technology for strategic community camera programs.

o $3.3 million to implement gun violence reduction strategies in areas dominated by gun violence and increase community policing.

o $8 million for the replacement of BRPD patrol units and other vehicles.

o $100,000 for the Chances-Innovative Gun-Violence Intervention Program administered by the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office (EBRPDA), a program that will target youthful offenders who have been identified as most at risk of either committing a gun violence offense or being victimized by gun violence.

o $100,000 for the expansion of the Hospital Violence Intervention Program (HVIP) administered by the EBRPDA, a program that focuses on patients who are victims of violence/intentional injuries and seeks to capitalize on such potentially life-altering moments in an effort to disrupt the cycles, and further perpetuation of violence. Studies show that survivors of violent/traumatic experiences are significantly more likely to be re-victimized and/or become violent offenders themselves.

o $150,000 for the Innovative Opioid Project which will enable EBRPDA to test, establish, and implement innovative programs focused on public health and public safety enhancements by collecting and sharing data.

o $500,000 for additional special prosecutors and public defenders on matters relating to the ongoing backlog of cases.

o $250,000 for youth employment programs that directly address the negative economic impacts of the pandemic on young people and their families and communities.

· $4 million for premium pay to essential employees (this proposal is pending an Attorney General opinion).

· $2 million for Economic Development and Tourism Initiatives in response to the pandemic’s negative impact on the tourism industry and related sectors.

· $9.6 million for equipment upgrades for Baton Rouge Fire Department including emergency vehicles and facilities.

· $2.25 million for blight elimination which could include removing or demolishing dilapidated buildings or structures and clearing vegetative growth and debris from vacant lots.

· $1.4 million for security and COVID-19 safety upgrades at the entrances of City Hall which could include the installation of new doors with hands-free capability to limit the transmission of the coronavirus and other viruses, metal detectors and possession scanners, and check-in kiosks that provide information for constituents and employees.

· $4 million for HVAC upgrades to improve the indoor air quality and ventilation at the River Center arena, City Hall, the Public Safety Complex, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum and the Advanced Traffic Management building.

· $1.2 million to provide proper office space for social distancing at the Public Safety Complex.

· $2 million for upgrades at BRPD’s First and Second Precinct Headquarters.

· $6 million to provide partial funding for the proposed Housing for Hero development, a multi-use low and moderate-income housing development for essential workers and professionals located in a Qualified Census Tract area.

· $1.5 million to provide partial funding for a two-story mixed-use, mixed-income, urban development on Plank Road that will include an Early Head Start center run by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Greater Baton Rouge.

· $1.9 million to enhance City-Parish cybersecurity technology software and infrastructure.

· $3 million for grant and program administration to assist with the administering and reporting requirements of the American Rescue Plan Act funding.

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