Parish litter program underway
By: CARISSA HEBERT
The parish’s litter program, from abatement issues to recovering items from the roadways, is underway and residents should lend a hand in keeping our neighborhoods and roadways free of litter.
Teamwork is an issue in battling litter, and the Evangeline Parish’s police jury, sheriff’s office, solid waste and district attorney’s office, as well as local Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) enforcement agents, are working to combat litter.
Jury president Bob Manuel said the jury has been working with solid waste and sheriff’s office to restart a program it once utilized to combat litter. He said the conditions have steadily worsened over the years, and the jury wants to clean up our parish. He said the jury provides 50 percent of the funds and manages the program. The sheriff provides the inmate labor and a deputy, and solid waste provides monetary assistance.
Sheriff Eddie Soileau said the program does not cost his office anything. The deputy’s salary is paid through the program, and the inmate labor is based strictly on a volunteer basis. He said from what he has seen, they are doing a great job.
James Berthelot, executive director of solid waste, said the commission has agreed to give $1,500 per month to the jury to help with the programs’ costs.
People who choose to litter and are fined are paying for the program twice; once through fines and once through taxes, which support various programs in the parish.
Sgt. Scott Fontenot, local LDWF enforcement agent, said Wildlife and Fisheries continue to be active in combating litter throughout the parish, as well as at the state level. He said LDWF will continue its efforts to work jointly with other agencies to combat litter. He said they have made numerous litter cases throughout the area.
District Attorney Brent Coreil, whose office accepts the charges and citations on behalf of the 13th Judicial District, said LDWF’s efforts have been outstanding. In the last two years, he said the agents have probably written five to eight times more litter violations than in the past. He said they appreciate what the local LDWF agents do in this parish. He said when the public reports a violation, the agents go directly to the scene and investigate the situation. He said there have been stiff fines in the past and the areas have been cleaned by the persons responsible for littering.
“It’s working,” Coreil said. He also said educating the public is a main ingredient to preventing litter. The parish has dumpsites and garbage collection, so it doesn’t pay to litter, yet people are throwing it from their vehicles and dumping it from bridges. He encouraged the public to dispose of their trash correctly.
Berthelot also assists in the litter program by offering rewards to those who report gross littering cases. He said Wildlife and Fisheries works the case, and as soon as the district attorney accepts the case, solid waste issues a $200 reward, either anonymously or public ally. Since the game wardens took over in the area of litter, he said rewards have increased 10 times more than what has been given in the last 20 years.
Besides the financial support to the program, Berthelot said solid waste is also loaning a trailer with a port-a-let on it for the litter crews.
Sgt. Fontenot said this joint effort is working. The district attorney prosecutes the cases and solid waste officers a really good incentive to encourage people to assist them. Senior Agent Steve Vidrine added the reward program has been an asset to them at times in gross littering cases.
Berthelot added the jury clears the roadways, and the sheriff provides the inmate labor. “It’s a great team effort.”
Manuel said the jury has three teams working approximately 32 hours a week. He said they are looking at acquiring inmate labor from Basile to put another crew working. He said they arrive at an intersection and clear the area of litter. Then they might weed-eat around the signs and spray the area for weed control.
The most difficult part now is acquiring inmates suitable for the program. He said only certain prisoners can be used. He said constituents can make complaints of areas with excessive litter to the jury’s office, but the crews have been tackling several problem areas like Crooked Creek.
“Right now we have crews in wards one, four and five. We’re working on crews in ward two and three.”
Sheriff Soileau said his department will continue to work with everyone to keep the program moving forward. He said the Village of Pine Prairie will have assistance from two prisoners, and the Ville Platte Sports Complex is going to have one prisoner assigned there to assist with the grounds.