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Dumpsters and Dogs

Two more topics likely to be tackled by next police jury
Sunday, August 20, 2023

In the wake of candidate qualifying for the Oct. 14 general election, the Leader continues its preview of topics that are likely to rise to the surface in the next four-year Lincoln Parish Police Jury term that begins in January.

Following the more recent issues of ambulance service, selecting a parish administrator and completing the Health Hub project that were highlighted in part 1 of this series, today’s entry delves into two long-standing topics the jury has yet to address on a large scale.

Further reading: Part 1 and Part 3

Trash collection

The state of Lincoln Parish's dumpster system outside of municipal limits was a major talking point the last time police jury elections rolled around in 2019.

Four years later, not much action has been taken on the matter.

The jury has met numerous times to discuss what all seem to agree is a “dumpster problem,” but it has not yet chosen or moved forward with any of the proposed overhauls to the system.

“We need to focus on the dumpsters,” District 4 juror T.J. Cranford, the jury’s Solid Waste Committee chairman, said this week. “We brought them up a few times, but we got distracted on other issues.”

The parish provides more than 60 dumpster sites for roughly 8,500 households outside the limits of the municipalities, which run their own collection services.

Residents and jurors alike have complained for years that many of the sites are frequently overrun between pickups, resulting in trash strewn across the ground and blowing into neighborhoods.

The problem includes folks dropping off larger items at the dumpsters, like furniture, that are supposed to be taken to the landfill; dumpster divers leaving opened bags of trash on the ground around the sites; and individuals and construction contractors from other parishes overloading the sites with their trash.

The jury has implemented some smaller fixes throughout the current term, such as recently adding a third litter crew that, unlike the others, isn’t attached to a mowing crew and can respond freely to litter “hotspots” like overloaded dumpsters.

But the bigger proposed changes have remained the same over the past four years:

• Door-to-door trash pickup

• Consolidate existing dumpsters into a smaller number of large, well-lit “megasites” with cameras. The jury already has four of these.

• Centralized, manned compactor sites for those items that don’t go in dumpsters. Failing that, roll-off dumpsters where residents can place those items separate from household trash.

• A hybrid of door-to-door pickup for a few miles outside of Ruston, plus “megasites” in the rural areas beyond.

The jury’s administrative office put out an online survey of parish residents in late 2020 to gauge their interest in these solid waste collection options. But the survey was never brought up again.

Animal control

The police jury is obligated to provide some menas of animal control to the parish.

For many years the jury chose to contribute to funding the nonprofit animal shelter 4 Paws Rescue in Ruston to fulfill this obligation.

The Lincoln Parish Sheriff's Office provides a dedicated animal control deputy to wrangle strays and owner-surrendered animals.

Sometimes those dogs end up at 4 Paws or Simply Southern Rescue, but until recently the largest portion would be transported to the bigger, more equipped Ouachita Parish Animal Shelter (OPAS).

The jury had to pay a per-head fee for every animal taken to OPAS, so in late 2021 jurors decided they didn’t want to keep paying the flat $24,000 yearly funding to 4 Paws on top of that.

After an outcry from 4 Paws management and some members of the public, the parish negotiated a $100 per-head fee for any dog taken to either of the local shelters.

But then in the summer of 2022 the Ouachita Parish Police Jury voted to close OPAS to animals from outside its own parish, causing the existing volume issue facing Lincoln Parish animal control to worsen.

The jury turned to the city of Ruston, negotiating for some space for parish animals at the city’s current facility on McDonald Avenue while Ruston constructs a new shelter.

The parish now pays the same $100 fee for its dogs to be housed with the city, a temporary agreement which the jury agreed to renew in May of 2023. The two entities have had preliminary talks of a permanent agreement that would see the new city shelter expanded to accommodate parish animals, but no deal has yet been struck.