Central mayor hopes to sign contract soon to clean out 275 miles of clogged drainage ditches

Updated: Apr. 5, 2017 at 6:01 PM CDT
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Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - The Bridlewood neighborhood in Central had water that hadn't drained even three days after the storms that passed through the area Sunday night and Monday morning. People in the subdivision say it wasn't so bad Monday morning, but it was a different scene just hours later.

"I went to leave to bring my son to therapy Monday around 2 o'clock and I barely made it out the neighborhood," said Julie Heuval, who lives in the Bridlewood neighborhood.

Some residents had difficulty leaving the subdivision because many of the drains and canals in the neighborhood are full of overgrown grass, weeds, and debris. The drain next to Heuval's home still has standing water in it three days after the heavy rains. A line of debris in her yard marks where the water was at its highest point and debris over the ditches shows the water was over the top of the culvert.

"Something's got to happen," said Heuval.

Many residents in Central agree with Heuval. It's why on Wednesday, crews from the City of Central were in the Beaver Bayou, which runs under Hooper Rd., pulling out bamboo sticks, a huge sign, logs, a large piece of plywood, and even a TV.

That was downstream. Upstream, crews also spent the morning picking up a pile of sticks and debris. Because Hooper Rd. is a state roadway, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is now stepping in to help with the cleanup efforts on both Hooper and Wax Rds.

As to why crews aren't in your neighborhoods, Central's program director, David Ratcliff, had this to say, "The major drainage canals that carry the water from the neighborhoods are what are causing the restriction and if we have a restriction in the canal, then the neighborhood water can't get out."

The box culvert under Hooper Rd. is next to Margaret LaFleur's home. She's lived there for more than 40 years. The ditch in front of her home looks more like a garden and she still has standing water in her yard.

"That's the first time in the 40 plus years that I've been here that that has happened because like I said, 30 minutes after the rain has quit, the water starts going down, but not this time," said LaFleur.

This is why Central Mayor Jr. Shelton says they're hiring an emergency contractor to come in with a team of 40 to 50 people to complete all the work. "This is something we got $4.7 million allocated for drainage. We're going to put it to use," said Shelton.

Why wasn't that $4.7 million used prior to Sunday's storms?

"I could've rushed it through and used a bandage approach and done some things that, quite honestly, we'd be going back to change later and we wanted to make sure it got done right," said Shelton.

The mayor says since he took office two years ago, people have been in the ditches everyday, but a few people cannot take on the 275 miles of drains in the entire city, but the hired contractors can. "They will get rid of trees, get rid of debris. We found a bridge, a Christo bridge that had fallen into a drainage canal that dammed it up a few months ago. Just recently, we found an old bed of a pickup truck in one of these canals that blocked things," said Shelton.

The mayor says he understands everyone's frustrations and will make sure residents are comfortable living in their own homes.

"This city has plenty of money and we're going to spend it on the issues that we need to take care of. We also have another $2.6 million set aside for emergencies and this certainly qualifies as an emergency," said Shelton.

Mayor Shelton met with DOTD Wednesday. DOTD says they will help with the cleanup on Hooper and Wax Rds. The mayor hopes to have a contract signed to clean up all the ditches and canals by the end of this week.

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