Donaldsonville mayor to garbage collection company: 'Enough is enough'

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief
Garbage overflows from cans at an apartment complex on East Bayou Road (Hwy. 308) late in the afternoon Sept. 15 in Donaldsonville.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan and members of the city council had stern words for a representative for Republic Services, the company the city contracts for garbage collection.

During the Sept. 14 meeting, the first to return to in-person meetings at city hall following a spike in COVID-19 cases caused the council to meet virtually, the council heard from Republic Services' Steve Smith.

He acknowledged the challenges the company has endured in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida throughout southeast Louisiana.

Smith said the company has spent more than $600,000 on taking care of employees needing food, supplies, and fuel. The office in Houma rented a trailer for employees to wash and dry clothes.

"Republic Services takes care of its employees. It's not lip service," Smith said.

After the Category 4 hurricane hit, the company had trouble getting drivers for normal routes. Drivers were pulled from the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas.

"We're trying to get these pieces put back together," Smith said.

On average, some 59 tons of garbage gets picked up per week from Donaldsonville, according to the representative. He said the work almost doubled over night, compounded by a crunch down in labor.

Smith said two trucks would be running Sept. 15.

Members of the Donaldsonville City Council listen to Republic Services representative Steve Smith during the Sept. 14 meeting. Shown, from left, are: Attorney Spencer Long, District 5's Michael Sullivan, District 3's Reginald Francis, and District 4's Charles Brown.

District 1's Lauthaught Delaney suggested consistency instead of jumping around the city.

"You don't have to put your windows down. You can ride around with your windows up and smell it," Delaney said of the piled up garbage.

The mayor said not completing a route is unacceptable, as he began his stern message to the representative.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it," he said. "It's unacceptable."

Sullivan pointed out some have gone three weeks without a pickup. After a week of power outages, spoiled food from refrigerators has been sitting in garbage cans. Some residents have garbage overflowing.

"Enough is enough," the mayor said. "We understand the hurricane didn't just hit Donaldsonville."

While acknowledging the longstanding relationship between the city and the company, he said he felt they have been "treated less than fairly."

Sullivan said he has been tired of getting "chewed out" by residents over garbage. The problem has been throughout the entire city.

"There's garbage everywhere. It needs to be picked up and it needs to be done immediately," the mayor said.

He also pointed out people have been asking to get the $14 fee for garbage pickup taken off their city bill for the month.

"We got beat up over electricity, and now we're getting hammered because of garbage and trash out there," Delaney said.

District 4's Charles Brown said this is the first time the community has waited this long for pickup.

"We really want to see the trash picked up," Brown said.

Smith added that all "household-generated garbage" that is overflowing from garbage cans will be picked up.

Later in the meeting, the mayor said the city will waive late fees for bills this month. City bills are mailed out to residents, and mail service has been inconsistent in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

In other matters:

Residents were cooperative with the curfew in the days following the hurricane, according to Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Westside Capt. Darryl Smith.

He said education was the first step, as many may not have known about the curfew. Those who were out after dark generally had a reason.

"I want to thank you all, the mayor and the council. It was a joint effort recovery from Ida. I appreciate the partnership we have," Smith said.

Donaldsonville Fire Chief Adam Gautreaux said first responders had a few calls about heat-related problems and carbon monoxide calls.

Gautreaux said a small child was sent to a hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. He said two people noticed a generator was too close to the baby's room.

During the hurricane, the cut off for operations was any wind faster than 45 miles per hour.

"We were still getting calls with 100 mile-per-hour winds," Gautreaux said.

In further discussing the aftermath of the hurricane, the mayor said FEMA will be going door-to-door to assist with registration for assistance.

Along with FEMA, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and The Red Cross also set up in the city to assist residents in need.

"We had a lot of people who helped, who volunteered. I'm very appreciative of everyone who gave their time. It was a rough time," the mayor said.

He thanked Michael Sullivan, who is an electrician, who was helpful in the recovery efforts.

"Here we are dealing with rain and flooding again," the mayor said, referring to the heavy rain brought by the remnants of Hurricane Nicholas.

The Ascension Parish Council representative for District 1, Alvin "Coach" Thomas, was in attendance for the meeting. He mentioned several entities and individuals who came together to work on the recovery.

"Tough times don't last, tough people do. I think we are very resilient," Thomas said.