Debris removal trucks getting scarcer in St. John

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 2, 2013

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – Those large and seemingly ubiquitous DRC Emergency Services trucks seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac have become less visible recently.
Leroy Mitchell, a representative of the Mobile, Ala.-based company, said the demand for debris pickup has slowed, resulting in the company cutting back its services. Mitchell informed St. John the Baptist Parish Council members Tuesday night the large trucks will be coming into the parish only on an as needed basic.
Mitchell also said he and other company representatives will be monitoring neighborhoods to assure there is no significant accumulation of debris.
“It seems like all of the houses that need to be cleaned up are done,” Mitchell said.   “Several days ago the decision was made (to cut back service). Having a truck in every day was a waste of time and money.
“There is not enough of trash to pull out.”
He said during the past week in the River Forest, Cambridge and Foxwood subdivisions there were a combined total of 10 piles of debris.
“River Forest and Cambridge are two (large) areas,” he added. “That’s a small number (of debris). It doesn’t make sense.”
He said if the situation changes, DRC will once again direct the bigger trucks to the area.
The company has been hauling debris from gutted homes since shortly after Hurricane Isaac flooded many areas of LaPlace and the rest of the parish.
After what seemed to be an efficient start, council members had some concerns and aired those issues during a meeting late last year.
As a result of that meeting, the company added a second big truck to come into
the parish and haul debris daily.
But not all parish council members are satisfied.
“I’m not pleased with them,” Councilman Marvin Perilous said. “I tried calling you (Mitchell) a couple of times (was unable to reach him). I didn’t know you were still working for the company.”
Councilman Larry Snyder said his concern is the fact young people appear to enjoy playing around large piles of debris, creating a danger if the debris accumulates because of lack of trucks in the area
“Public works does a lot of pickup for you,” council member Cheryl Millet told Mitchell while also lobbying him to at least use smaller trucks to continue to pick up debris. “We don’t need the big trucks. We’re beyond that. There are a lot of sections with new piles.”
Mitchell said if he or another company representative notes what he called  “an abundance of trash, we will bring the truck in. We will not allow an abundance of trash to build up in the parish.”
But he said it is not cost feasible to bring in a truck “to pick up two piles.”
“I’m concerned about the parish’s money,” he added.
The parish is currently paying DRC with the expectation of getting reimbursed from FEMA. But officials note that reimbursement comes with a 25 percent match from the parish, so the fewer dollars spent mean fewer matching funds.
Officials also noted that DRC is only picking up debris from the gutting of residences. Parish President Natalie Robottom reiterated previous reminders to residents that contractors are responsible to haul away debris from new construction or renovations.
Also, Robottom said tree-cutting companies are responsible for the removal of limbs and branches after the work is done.
Additionally, items such as cardboard should not be placed with the debris, as a different company will pick that up.
“If we think that we need to get them back, we will get them back,” Robottom said.