Search for emergency household waste contractor returns zero bids; Parish exploring all avenues to expand capacity

Published 3:17 pm Thursday, September 23, 2021

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish received zero submittals in its search for an emergency household waste contractor, an effort initiated by Parish President Jaclyn Hotard in response to mounting garbage throughout the parish.

Hotard said it’s an indicator of the lack of additional capacity available within the region. Capacity was a challenge well before Hurricane Ida, and the impacts have been exasperated since the storm.

Residents have taken to social media to express concerns over flies and maggots overtaking their piles of trash as they wait weeks for pick-up. Some reported that they had not received service since several days before the hurricane.

St. John Parish plans to restructure the bid in hopes of attracting submittals while exploring other avenues of increasing disposal capacity.

“Every day we get some garbage picked up off of the ground. Metro has trucks out every day, and I’m requiring them to send us daily reports of their progress. However, we know that what’s taking place is not enough,” Hotard said. “Every other aspect of our recovery has been moving as smoothly as it could be. However, with garbage collection, we continue to be challenged.”

Last weekend, Hotard facilitated a partnership between Metro and subcontractor Waste Pro to speed up trash collection efforts in St. John Parish. Waste Pro was able to bring in 10 trucks to assist in garbage collection.

Prior to that, contractors had already brought in four additional trucks for collection efforts.

“We have brought in two additional companies, but capacity from other companies oftentimes is limited to when they are not servicing their areas,” Hotard said.

Hotard recently met with Dr. Chuck Brown of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to discuss the option of extending emergency debris collection to include municipal waste. This would give debris contractors the ability to pick up garbage off the ground.

Hotard explained that garbage must go to a specially permitted disposal site and is typically handled separate from vegetative debris, construction debris and white goods.

She assured residents that the parish is exploring all avenues to resolve the issue.

“I’m requiring Metro to do everything they can to increase capacity to get garbage off the ground,” she said.

Metro Service Group owner Jimmie Woods Sr. was not available to comment at the time of this report.

The company is experiencing similar difficulties in New Orleans. In a letter to the citizens of New Orleans posted to the Metro website, Woods said, “Nothing disappoints me and the Metro team more than being behind on our routes and adding to your frustrations, especially in these very challenging times.”

In the letter, Woods added that the challenges Metro is experiencing relate largely to the absence of drivers, rather than an absence of hoppers for each truck. Other challenges include the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Ida displacing employees and the sheer volume of waste needing to be collected.

Metro has implemented a hiring bonus program for new employees in addition to increasing its starting hourly rate for truck drivers to $17 per hour. Pay has also increased for certified diesel mechanics, technicians and tire repair personnel.