The next step is for Parish Government to contract with a provider and to fashion a policy that deals with indigence and other special circumstances.
The effect of the new law is to cut down on the amount of trash that winds up in the streets and waterways – the major concern of those who packed the meeting room this afternoon – but also, according to Parish President Guy Cormier, to stave off much higher garbage fees for those who now voluntarily pay for garbage pickup in the rural areas.
“Without this, voluntary bills will go up 20 to 25 percent,” Cormier told the council before the vote. He explained that the unincorporated areas of the parish have benefited from very low prices – lower than the residents in the cities and towns are paying – because the service was initially provided by a start-up company, which has since been bought out by a larger outfit.
The economics of driving the whole parish just to pick up part of its garbage is about to catch up with St. Martin, the last parish in the region without universal mandatory trash collection, Cormier said.
The vote was seven-one, with District 2’s Lisa Nelson explaining she had to oppose it because some of her constituents, especially the elderly and indigent, had asked her to do so.
District 7 Councilman Craig Gregory voiced support for the law, saying that there are established means -- like Cleco’s “Share the Light” program where customers can chip in to help others -– to ease the burden among the disadvantaged.
“There are ways we can be sensitive in this,” he said.
Councilman Clay Courville of District 5 said the problem with litter has become overwhelming in his district, which includes part of the Atchafalaya Basin.
“All you have to do is look under the bridges after a flood,” he said. “We’ve got to start being responsible.”
“I think this is a start,” said Jason Wills of District 3, who admitted he didn’t poll his constituents as much as he lectured them on the issue.
District 8’s Meko Robin said the fact that there was a roomful of proponents of the measure and none in opposition was all he needed to know.
A number of folks spoke from the audience in favor of mandatory trash collection in the unincorporated areas but none more eloquently than Blake Couvillion, founder of Cajuns for Bayou Teche and president of the TECHE Project, both grassroots efforts to clean up and promote the bayou as a community resource.
“This is the most beautiful parish in the state,” he said. “We have people coming here from all over the world because of things like Tour du Teche (annual canoe and kayak race). We don’t want them looking at our trash.”
Ward 3 Constable David R. Dugas also appeared to inform the council and the public that his office has parishwide jurisdicion over littering and that he and Ward 3 Justice of the Peace Charlene Champagne are taking it seriously.
To report littering or illegal dumping, go to www.facebook.com/StMartinConstableWard3, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (337) 781-2011.