WBRZ http://www.wbrz.com/ WBRZ On Your Side On Your Side en-us Copyright 2018, WBRZ. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Tue, 17 Jul 2018 HH:07:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 WBRZ http://www.wbrz.com/ 144 25 A tough lesson: woman in debt after loaning card to contractor http://www.wbrz.com/news/a-tough-lesson-woman-in-debt-after-loaning-card-to-contractor/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/a-tough-lesson-woman-in-debt-after-loaning-card-to-contractor/ On Your Side Mon, 16 Jul 2018 6:23:18 PM Brittany Weiss A tough lesson: woman in debt after loaning card to contractor

DENHAM SPRINGS - A woman is stuck with thousands of dollars in credit card debt after she tells 2 On Your Side she was duped by her contractor.

Dianne Glascock says she willingly handed over her Home Depot credit card to Axl Escobar, who was working to repair her flood-damaged house. Glascock says Escobar was working under another person's license and told her he needed some supplies to work on other jobs.

"He said he was broke and he had this big job in New Orleans and asked if he could charge some supplies," she said. "I really liked the guy I trusted him completely and I let him use my card."

Billing statements show charges on Glascock's Home Depot card exceeding $6,100. Items purchased include a saw, tile, wood flooring, lighting, paint, a battery-operated screwdriver, a battery-operated radio, convertible range hood, and dozens of other items. The charges are over a six-month period until Glascock canceled the card in June. She says the card still has not been returned to her.

In addition to the credit card charges, Glascock says Escobar was paid to do work in her home he didn't do. She says he was to finish her master bedroom, replace siding, the windows on the front of the house and in the rear of the home. Glascock opted to front the money for these projects, but the front windows and the siding were never replaced by Escobar. Glascock also wrote him a check for an $800 loan.

"He won't pay me back now," said Glascock. 

Text message between Glascock and Escobar show that there have been multiple pleas for him to reimburse the money and finish the job. Escobar named multiple dates planning to stop by to make things right and did not show up.

Now Glascock fears he might be doing this to other people.

"I recommended him to a friend and he did the same thing to him," she said. "My friend then recommended him to someone else who he did the same thing to again."

While Glascock is now in a tough situation, she is taking the responsibility for her actions.

"There's nobody to blame but myself," she said. "I just don't want him to do this to other people."

Last week, 2 On Your Side spoke to a man identifying himself as Axl Escobar on the phone. He told WBRZ's Brittany Weiss he needed some time to get paid from another job so he could repay Glascock and requested a week to make things right. That deadline passed when Monday's story aired on WBRZ.

Glascock says she has contacted the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office and filed a report.

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Rodents taking over neighborhood near Shenandoah http://www.wbrz.com/news/rodents-taking-over-neighborhood-near-shenandoah/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/rodents-taking-over-neighborhood-near-shenandoah/ On Your Side Sun, 15 Jul 2018 8:50:38 PM Brittany Weiss Rodents taking over neighborhood near Shenandoah

BATON ROUGE - A neighborhood off Shenandoah says it's having issues with rodents. Rats are running through backyards and multiplying inside houses. They're small and pesky, and they're infiltrating the neighborhood.

"It's been an ongoing problem," resident Forest Pitre told 2 On Your Side. "Biggest one I've caught was about eight inches."

Rats of all sizes are finding their way into Pitre's backyard. And he's not the only one.

"I'm scared of them, terrified of them," another resident, Regina Ricard said. Ricard says the rats are getting into her house, finding ways through little holes. "They jumped on top of the roof."

The rodents run through her backyard, climb trees, and some are even setting up shop in her attic.
"I can't sleep at night, they keep me up, it's like they're having a party up there," Ricard said.

We're not talking about one or two rats, either. In one morning, Ricard says her traps caught almost three dozen.
"Thirty-one and counting," she said. "We watched them jump from over next door."

Residents believe the rats are coming from businesses behind their homes.

"The garbage stays back there, it's just unsanitary," Pitre added.

Sick from the problem, Richard called 2 On Your Side. A report was filed with the Department of Health.

While measures have already been taken, Ricard hopes the problem stops for good.

"I looked into adopting a cat, so I'm going to get me a cat," she said.

The Department of Health says it inspected the area Friday and did not find any sign of a rodent infestation. Homeowners with rodent problems can call the East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control at (225) 356-3297.

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Residents concerned over infrastructure along busy highway in Gonzales http://www.wbrz.com/news/residents-concerned-over-infrastructure-along-busy-highway-in-gonzales/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/residents-concerned-over-infrastructure-along-busy-highway-in-gonzales/ On Your Side Mon, 9 Jul 2018 10:19:53 PM Brittany Weiss Residents concerned over infrastructure along busy highway in Gonzales

GONZALES - A neighborhood with dozens of homes tucked away off LA 44 in Gonzales is raising traffic concerns recently. They're demanding a traffic light be installed for their safety, but their repeated calls for help have gone unanswered.

While infrastructure change is coming to the area, residents like Kristie Pickering fear they might not be the neighborhood's best option.

"I guess what's disappointing is the fact that the city, the parish and the state can't seem to come together to solve the infrastructure issues," she said.

Just south of I-10 off LA 44, two large developments have started building homes. Conway will eventually have about 900 apartments, townhouses, homes and estate lots with an urban town center, parks, and green spaces. Across the street from Conway is Oak Lake, which will have about an additional 200 homes.

"I can't even imagine what it's going to be like," said Pickering.

A couple of road improvements have already been approved for LA 44, to help absorb the additional traffic. That includes a roundabout at the front entrance of Conway, which will be funded by the developer. LA 44 will also be four lanes near the Conway property start, a $3.5 million improvement.

In August 2017, DOTD says it held a public meeting to propose a multi-lane roundabout on LA 44 south of Loosemore Road/LA 941 and widening of LA 44 from two lanes to four lanes between I-10 and the Conway roundabout. DOTD says it plans to go back to the public in a few months to present updated exhibits, based on public comments. The project is still in the feasibility study phase and has not been priced out.

During the school year, Pickering says it takes between six and seven minutes for her to make a left-hand turn onto LA 44 from her neighborhood on Loosemore Road. The speed limit is 55 mph. Each time, she says she's risking her life and the lives of her family. While she's not opposed to roundabouts, she's concerned it still won't help the turning situation out of her neighborhood.

"If the traffic is slower, that's a positive thing, but if the gaps in between the traffic are not there anymore then I think it's going to be even harder for people on the cross streets to cross," she said.

With a 13-year-old who will soon be learning how to drive, Pickering fears if an immediate change is not made, she might have to move her family elsewhere.

"If this isn't fixed by the time he's ready to drive I'm going to seriously consider looking at new places to live," she said. "Just because I don't know how difficult it's going to be three years from now for him to be able to make that left-hand turn as a new driver."

This isn't the first time the neighborhood has become vocal about what they call a dangerous intersection. Krista Madere started a petition last year to request the immediate action for a traffic light. The petition was signed by at least 168 residents who live in the neighborhood.

"We didn't come together to say we might have a problem in six years, we came together to say we need some safety now," said Madere.

Every time Madere makes a left-hand turn out of her neighborhood onto LA 44, she says she feels like she's playing Russian roulette.

"That's all we're asking for, a timed light," she said.

Conway hopes to break ground on the roundabout project within the next two months.

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Valet Garbage Services tackling Ascension Parish trash market http://www.wbrz.com/news/valet-garbage-services-tackling-ascension-parish-trash-market/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/valet-garbage-services-tackling-ascension-parish-trash-market/ On Your Side Fri, 6 Jul 2018 6:23:17 PM Brittany Weiss Valet Garbage Services tackling Ascension Parish trash market

PRAIRIEVILLE - Residents in Ascension Parish frustrated with trash pick-up have a new option: valet garbage service.

Eddie Denham and his wife are doing something a little different. They're driving right up to someone's front door or down their driveway to pick up their garbage, and customers are flocking to them.

"The other providers are not providing the service that we're providing," said Denham. "If the customer's not going to get their garbage picked up they going to get somebody else to pick it up and we're willing and able to pick it up."

Denham says at times the job can stink, but he is loving the new family business they started last September. The idea came from Denham's dad, talking to him in a dream.

"I had a recurring dream of him talking to me, telling me I should be picking up the garbage," he said.

Denham's dad and uncle used to be in the Ascension Parish garbage business. They once owned a company called Denham Sanitation but sold it years ago. When he was growing up, Denham says he would help his family run the routes, so picking up trash is something he's familiar with. After months of dreaming about his dad telling him to pick up the trash, Denham got started building a truck to handle the waste. That's when VTS (originally Valet Trash Services), or Valet Garbage Services, LLC was born.

There's no need to pull your trash to the curb because Denham will back right up into your driveway.

"As long as it's visible I can pull up here and I can see it, I'll take it from there," he said.

The business started small, catering to senior citizens and disabled veterans. Word quickly got out and in the last couple of weeks, Denham says he's added well over 100 customers who have switched from either Republic Services or Waste Pro. There have been a series of WBRZ reports recently about residents in Ascension and East Baton Rouge Parishes not getting regular garbage services.

"I've got doctors, I've got lawyers, I've got seniors, I've got people that are capable of taking their trash to the road but don't have time so we take care of it," said Denham.

The day typically starts at 5:30 a.m. and Both Denham and his wife carry on separate routes in Ascension Parish. They both collect the garbage and take the loads to the landfill once a day. It's a full-time job for them and a new business venture that recognizes a need in their community.

"We want to make sure the customer is taken care of," he said.

The service is only available in Ascension Parish at this time, but Denham is looking to expand and hire two new drivers. There are 96-gallon cans available for use, but residents can use their own cans for service. Only trash in bags will be collected.

Valet Garbage Services pricing starts at $24.95 for curb service and $27.95 for valet services. Denham can be reached at 225-456-3886.

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Here's where your inspection sticker money is going http://www.wbrz.com/news/here-s-where-your-inspection-sticker-money-is-going/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/here-s-where-your-inspection-sticker-money-is-going/ On Your Side Tue, 3 Jul 2018 5:35:04 PM Brittany Weiss Here's where your inspection sticker money is going

BATON ROUGE - A lot of people get an inspection sticker every year for their vehicle because it's the law.

Inspectors look at the condition of tires, windshields, windows and test brakes, lights, turn signals. In return, a sticker is placed in the lower left-hand corner of the front windshield, where state law requires it to be displayed.

The Louisiana State Police says the intent of the Motor Vehicle Inspection program statewide is to remove unsafe vehicles from the roadways. This is accomplished by MVI station inspectors checking all required safety aspects of a vehicle and making sure they are in compliance with state law.

The rules vary in some parishes, but most inspections are done at least every other year. The state inspection fee is $10 for one year or $20 for a two-year inspection sticker. Commercial Vehicle Inspections cost $30 and are good for one year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed the air quality in five parishes, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston and Iberville Parishes, to be more closely monitored by the Department of Environmental Quality. That's attributed to a few factors, including population and industrial plant presence and it's why those five parishes require an emissions test. The inspection stickers in those parishes cost $18 a year and two-year inspection issuance is not allowed. The increased cost offsets the cost of necessary air quality emissions testing equipment each station is required to use.

For the most part, the cost is divided three ways: $4.75 to the station performing the inspection; $4 goes to Louisiana State Police; and $1.25 goes to the Office of Motor Vehicles. The extra $8 cost in the five parishes goes to the emission testing. The revenue is used to fund the operating budget of each agency.

That revenue adds up. Louisiana State Police's portion of one year stickers and CVI stickers is about $3.5 million. LSP's portion of two-year stickers is about $8.75 million. The OMV's portion of CVI and one-year stickers is about $1.2 million and its portion of two-year stickers is about $2.7 million.

The cost to produce stickers per thousand is $38.86, CVI stickers cost $419.16 per thousand (price is high because of quantity ordered), rejection stickers cost $52.93 per thousand, and emissions stickers cost about $5.05 per thousand. The total purchase order for all items ordered for FY17 was $273,025.

Drivers found in violation of not having an up-to-date inspection sticker face a maximum $500 penalty and possible jail time of up to six months.

The LSP tells WBRZ, if a driver has an inspection sticker that is peeling off their window, packing tape can be used to reseal the adhesive to the window. The sticker must be presentable and unaltered. Another option is for the vehicle owner to return to the inspection station where the sticker was originally issued and ask for a replacement at no additional cost.

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Property owner says garbage company won't pick up dumpster full of trash http://www.wbrz.com/news/property-owner-says-garbage-company-won-t-pick-up-dumpster-full-of-trash/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/property-owner-says-garbage-company-won-t-pick-up-dumpster-full-of-trash/ On Your Side Fri, 29 Jun 2018 5:25:37 PM Brittany Weiss Property owner says garbage company won't pick up dumpster full of trash

CENTRAL - A few WBRZ viewers have emailed and called about problems they're having with Waste Pro. Some residents report that they have gone weeks without having their trash collected on regularly scheduled pick-up days.

Now imagine a dumpster outside of your business for six months. That's the case for one man who is making a stink after he can't get anyone at Waste Pro to take the dumpster away.

Wayne Clark says he had been using Waste Pro for two years before he starting having problems.

"Kind of at a loss of what to do here," said Clark. "The dumpster's still there."

Clark owns a building along Greenwell Springs Road in Central. With that building now up for sale, he discontinued service with Waste Pro in January. Ever since, he's been calling Waste Pro once a month and once a week in June for the company to come pick it up. With each call, Clark says there's a promising response.

"The same line: we'll pass it on to dispatch and I'm going to have our manager call you or supervisor call you," he said. "I still haven't gotten a call from a manager or supervisor."

To keep piling onto Clark's frustration, someone has filled up the dumpster with garbage. It's been sitting there for months, smelling of rotting trash. Clark says it's time for the dumpster to go, so he can sell the property and move on.

Friday, 2 On Your Side contacted Waste Pro by phone and email but did not hear back.

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Beloved aunt taken advantage by caretaker, family waiting for restitution http://www.wbrz.com/news/beloved-aunt-taken-advantage-by-caretaker-family-waiting-for-restitution/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/beloved-aunt-taken-advantage-by-caretaker-family-waiting-for-restitution/ On Your Side Thu, 28 Jun 2018 6:03:52 PM Brittany Weiss Beloved aunt taken advantage by caretaker, family waiting for restitution

ST. FRANCISVILLE - A woman says her beloved family member was taken advantage of by her caretaker and she's waiting for justice to be served.

Elizabeth Davis says $34,000 was taken from her aunt Jean Burnett's bank accounts over the course of a year.

"I mean, it's the epitome of elder abuse," said Davis.

Davis says her aunt was very independent and lived by herself in the St. Francisville home she built nearly 30 years ago. Shortly before Burnett died, she hired a caretaker to stop by twice a day and check on things.

"Her name was Barbara Franklin," said Davis.

One day, Burnett became ill and had to be checked into a hospital. She stayed there for four months in a hospital bed. During those four months, Davis was keeping up with her bills and noticed her bank account remained active.

"We got a statement from the bank that the card was still being used," said Davis. "In two weeks time, Barbara managed to go through $536 while my aunt's in the hospital."

Documents show dozens of charges at one local bank.

"Here $119 worth of merchandise from the Dollar General, the same day she got $80 worth of merchandise from Fred's," she said.

Almost every charge included cash back, and the spending didn't stop there. Davis says signatures were forged and a debit card was taken out in Burnett's name at a credit union where an account of Burnett's was emptied.

"She pretty much wiped her clean, she wiped out her savings account completely," said Davis.

The most, about $24,000 came out of her LASERS state retirement savings. Multiple withdrawals, including one for $7,000. Davis said it was a lot of money for a woman who lived well below her means.

In June 2017, Barbara Franklin was arrested in West Feliciana Parish for exploitation of the infirmed and unauthorized use of an access card.

Davis says her aunt Burnett died in January 2018.

Franklin is currently under probation after entering a plea of no contest to the charge of exploitation of persons with infirmities. There is a restitution hearing July 12, 2018, with the understanding that the max amount of restitution is $10,000.

Davis fears Franklin won't ever pay any of her aunt's money back.

"This was not justified, this was not right, this was flat-out theft," she said. "Why isn't anybody doing anything?"

Months have ticked by and Davis is shocked that justice has yet to be served but says she'll continue to fight for her aunt's restitution.

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Collection issues continue for Republic Services in Ascension Parish http://www.wbrz.com/news/collection-issues-continue-for-republic-services-in-ascension-parish/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/collection-issues-continue-for-republic-services-in-ascension-parish/ On Your Side Tue, 26 Jun 2018 5:20:23 PM Brittany Weiss Collection issues continue for Republic Services in Ascension Parish

GEISMAR - More complaints about Republic Services and one woman tells 2 On Your Side that she's not paying them for a service that isn't rendered.

Gwen Darville says the problems with her trash collection service have become more frequent in the last month. Her neighbors in Geismar are having the same issue.

"All our neighbors down the street, it's the same thing," she said. "We're tired of this."

Darville and her neighbors pay Republic Services on a quarterly basis to collect their trash once a week. They pay $106 every three months or $424 per year. Collection day is Saturday.

Last Friday, Darville says she received an automated message from Republic Services that said the trash would not be picked up Saturday and instead collection would move to Monday morning. She called 2 On Your Side Tuesday when she woke up and her trash was still in the bin at the end of her driveway.

"The least they could do is honor what they say," she said.

This is the second time Darville has called 2 On Your Side about her trash collection being missed. The first call was made May 31, 2018. Her trash was picked up soon after that, but when her service was missed again she says her frustration grew.

"We are definitely going with another company," she said. "We want the service rendered that's the bottom line."

Ascension Parish Councilwoman Teri Casso represents Darville's district and says she has received multiple calls from her constituents complaining about Republic Services. Casso tells WBRZ she attempted to bring parish-wide trash collection to Ascension in the past but it did not work out.

"I truly wish that the public will beg for the parish to do contract garbage," said Casso. "I would love to see this done differently in the parish."

Right now, Casso says she has no control over trash collection because it's a private enterprise in Ascension Parish.

Republic Services says it is looking into Darville's trash service issue. Earlier this month the company told WBRZ two of its drivers had to take emergency leave and the two fill-in drivers were still learning what homes to service.


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Energy-saving program can save customers money too http://www.wbrz.com/news/energy-saving-program-can-save-customers-money-too/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/energy-saving-program-can-save-customers-money-too/ On Your Side Fri, 22 Jun 2018 3:47:26 PM Brittany Weiss Energy-saving program can save customers money too

BATON ROUGE - A program offered to Entergy users is saving some customers a large chunk of change. The program, Entergy Solutions, is offered to Entergy customers at no additional charge.

Pat Thomas lives off Millerville Road and participated in the program in 2016. Since she says she's saved hundreds of dollars in electricity.

"I noticed within three months, I started paying attention," she said. "Everybody needs to save money."

Entergy Solutions is an energy efficiency program that helps residential or business customers lower their monthly bill at no additional cost to them. A vendor contracted through Entergy provides customers with cash incentives in the form of instant rebates. Those include sealing leaks in ductwork, sealing leaks in the house, and adding ceiling insulation. Customers like Thomas often see a quick return in the form of a lower monthly Entergy bill. From Apil 2016 to April 2018 Thomas' Entergy bill went down by about $70.

"That's a big difference, guys," she said.

The program began in 2014, and since then, Greg Guilbeau of Entergy says it's spent about $20 million on energy efficiency in residences and businesses. It also helps Entergy postpone major upgrades because it's lowering overall usage.

"Your house is more efficient, your business is more efficient, your bill goes down," said Guilbeau.

Since 2014, customers have saved about 110 million kWh. The annual amount of kWh saved has grown by more than 70 percent during the first three years of the program. Entergy says that's equivalent to taking nearly 18,000 cars off the road for a year.

Entergy is authorized by the Public Service Commission to spend $7 million a year helping customers though Entergy Solutions. The program wrapped up in November 2017 and has since been searching for a new vendor to restart the program in 2018.

The funding for the program comes from the customers. About 50 cents is added to the monthly bill of a typical residential customer. A minimal amount that adds up for people to use.

"It's kind of a first come, first serve basis," said Guilbeau.

Eligibility is fairly wide open for Entergy Louisiana residential customers (rent or own). The customer must live in a single-family home or multi-family unit of four units or fewer that's at least one year old with electric air conditioning (central or window).

Right now, Entergy is searching for a new vendor to start the program. Applications are not currently available. Guilbeau says the program should start back up again in July.

To learn more about Entergy Solutions, click here.

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Dozens of used tires dumped in flood victim's backyard http://www.wbrz.com/news/dozens-of-used-tires-dumped-in-flood-victim-s-backyard/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/dozens-of-used-tires-dumped-in-flood-victim-s-backyard/ On Your Side Thu, 21 Jun 2018 3:34:29 PM Brittany Weiss Dozens of used tires dumped in flood victim's backyard

BATON ROUGE - A flood victim, who is waiting to rebuild her Park Forest home, recently discovered a mess dumped in her backyard.

Demetra DeRouen says she has no idea who turned her property into a dumping ground. There are at least 70 used tires that were left on her property, in addition to molding couches.

"If I knew who did it, it'd be one thing," she said.

DeRouen says she doesn't return to the gutted house too often because of all the memories that were washed away in the flood. She was in the hospital having lung surgery when her home took on three feet of water in 2016. About two weeks ago, she says a neighbor who helps manicure her lawn, called to tell her about the dumped tires. DeRouen says she doesn't understand why someone would target her property.

"It's hurtful," she said. "It's adding insult to injury it's like taking salt and pouring it in an open wound."

For the last few days, DeRouen says she's been making phone calls trying to find someone to help her remove the tires and couches, but she hasn't had any luck yet.

"They told me it was a disposal fee on top of having somebody to come and pick them up," she said.

That bill is something DeRouen can't afford right now, but she knows she has to do something. She received a letter from the City of Baton Rouge that says she's in violation and must bring her property into compliance by June 25. If the violation is not cleared by then, DeRouen will have to appear before Blight Court on June 28.

The mosquito breeding ground is weighing her down and says the people who dumped the trash on her property should come back and clean it up.

"Apparently they have no moral compass," she said.

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Responses pour in after On Your Side report profiling man's bike troubles http://www.wbrz.com/news/responses-pour-in-after-on-your-side-report-profiling-man-s-bike-troubles/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/responses-pour-in-after-on-your-side-report-profiling-man-s-bike-troubles/ On Your Side Wed, 20 Jun 2018 7:00:13 PM Brittany Weiss Responses pour in after On Your Side report profiling man's bike troubles

UPDATE: Numerous offers of new bikes and monetary donations poured in after On Your Side highlighted Eric Schmidley's story Wednesday night. 

On Thursday, a gracious stranger dropped off a brand new bike and we presented it to him later that same afternoon. 

"I figured maybe one or two people, but not this," Schmidley said as he received his new bike. "To all those wanting and willing to help, I appreciate you." 

See the original story below:

BATON ROUGE - A man's source of transportation was destroyed by a CATS bus. Now he's fighting for a new bicycle.

Eric Schmidley tells 2 On Your Side his bike is totaled after it fell off the front of a bus and into the street.

"All of a sudden, it just pops up off the bike rack and it gets run over by the bus," he said.

The bike is four years old and has ridden a lot of miles. Schmidley bought it about four years ago for his main form of transportation. He rides the bike everywhere.

"To go to church, to go to work, go to the grocery store," he said. "It's really hard to get around."

Last month, Schmidley says he was on CATS bus route 18, LSU/Cortana, driving along Corporate Boulevard when it happened. Having ridden the bus for years with his bike in tow, he says he's never experienced anything like this.

"I was just shocked; that's never happened before," he said.

The damage to the bike is extensive. The front handlebars are twisted, the rear wheel does not turn, the front wheel is bent, his flashlight is broken and one of the pedals fell off.

"The spokes are just completely off," he said.

Schmidley, who lives about two miles from work, says he'd really like his bike replaced. But buying a new one isn't in his budget right now.

Wednesday afternoon, CATS responded to WBRZ concerning Schmidley's incident. CATS says it has received preliminary information regarding what happened and it is under investigation by staff.

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OMV fines collected surpasses $115 million http://www.wbrz.com/news/omv-fines-collected-surpasses-115-million/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/omv-fines-collected-surpasses-115-million/ On Your Side Tue, 19 Jun 2018 6:20:30 PM Brittany Weiss OMV fines collected surpasses $115 million

BATON ROUGE - It's been awhile since the state starting mailing out letters to collect fines for lapsed car insurance in Louisiana. Since those letters started going out in 2015, the Office of Motor Vehicles has collected about $115 million and the money is still coming in.

There were 1,139,191 referral notices sent to customers in 2015 for lapsed car insurance. When HB638 passed, the projected number if all lapsed car insurance fines were paid was $444 million. Since, a number of those fines were waived or cleared.

The Office of Debt Recovery collected approximately $53 million in 2016, $36 million in 2017, and $25 million in 2018.

OMV Commissioner Karen St. Germain says those funds collected go to various places.

"If everything on the books is done, that money goes back to the general fund," she said.

Even though millions of dollars in fines have gone unpaid, St. Germain says HB638 worked and the number of uninsured drivers in Louisiana dropped from about 14.5 percent to 11.5 percent. That process of cracking down on Louisiana's uninsured drivers continues and letter go out more often.

"We're sending them more on a regular basis so if you're not hearing about them as much we're taking care of them as they come in," she said.

In 2016, a bill passed that outlines payment plans for drivers owing the Office of Motor Vehicles more than $250 in lapsed insurance fines. St. Germain says there are still people calling the OMV to enter into one of those plans.

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Nutria spotted around City Park Lakes, best left alone http://www.wbrz.com/news/nutria-spotted-around-city-park-lakes-best-left-alone/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/nutria-spotted-around-city-park-lakes-best-left-alone/ On Your Side Mon, 18 Jun 2018 5:28:20 PM Brittany Weiss Nutria spotted around City Park Lakes, best left alone

BATON ROUGE - Whatever you do, don't call them rats. Nutria has recently been seen around the City Park Lakes, but there's no concern yet.

LSU Ag Center professor Andy Nyman says a whole bunch of nutria can do some serious damage.

"They're very good at making babies," said Nyman. "You don't have to eliminate them, you just have to reduce their numbers so they're not causing a problem."

Controlling the nutria numbers has been happening for decades. The large semi-aquatic rodents come from South America and were imported to Louisiana for the fur farming industry in the 1930's. The rodents are herbivores and feed on wetland plants. They can cause serious damage to coastal wetlands by feeding on and removing that vegetation, which affects habits for fish and wildlife, reducing storm surge, and improving water quality.

Here in Baton Rouge, the problems they could potentially present would be burrowing around the outer banks of the lakes.

"That's going to increase erosion around the sides of the ponds and lakes," said Nyman. "If it's close to a roadway it gets very expensive."

According to Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries, about 6,000 acres of wetlands are impacted by Nutria. It's why there's a nutria control program. Since the development of the Coastwide Nutria Control Program in 2002-2003, nutria damage along coastal Louisiana has been reduced from 82,080 acres to 5,866 acres. Terrebonne, Plaquemines, and St. Mary Parishes are where the most nutria was harvested this past season. The harvest season is from November to March.

Nyman says spotting a nutria around the City Park Lakes is normal. Other than popping up to say hello, they mind their own business and humans should, too.

"They do carry a lot of diseases and parasites," said Nyman.

Open trapping season for nutria begins November 20 in Louisiana.

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Utility cable stretching over street removed following call to 2OYS http://www.wbrz.com/news/utility-cable-stretching-over-street-removed-following-call-to-2oys/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/utility-cable-stretching-over-street-removed-following-call-to-2oys/ On Your Side Fri, 15 Jun 2018 5:12:59 PM Brittany Weiss Utility cable stretching over street removed following call to 2OYS

BATON ROUGE - Fast action for 2 On Your Side Friday. A mess left behind by a fallen tree limb has been cleaned up after Arthur Scott said he was having trouble getting any response. A cable that's been sitting in the road for nearly two weeks has been removed from the roadway.

When Scott contacted WBRZ Friday morning, he said he wasn't getting any answers.

"I've called AT&T several times and they haven't given me any response," he said.

Early last week, Scott says a storm rolled through Gore Road off of Highway 19. A large limb fell from the tree in front of his house and landed on the utility lines. The lines were pulled into the street, tearing the connection from his house and the utility pole. Scott says he had to replace the weathervane on his roof and his Entergy electric box. It cost him $1,200.

The power has been restored, but the large limb has been sitting in Scott's drainage ditch and he was waiting for the rest of the job to be completed.

"AT&T has not picked up their cables off the ground," he said.

Up until Friday afternoon, the AT&T cables were stretched across the street. Scott says Gore Road is a cut-through and hundreds of cars have run over that cable since it's been down. He assumes the cable has been live the whole time because he's had all of his utilities.

Around 3 o'clock Friday afternoon, Scott called 2 On Your Side saying AT&T was in front of his house moving the cable from the road. The company says a crew was on-site working to repair the downed line on Gore Road. If residents have questions about any AT&T equipment, they can contact the 24-hour equipment service line at 1-800-288-2020.

The City-Parish also tells WBRZ the Department of Public Works will check on the limb that's down in the drainage ditch Monday. It has to check to see if the tree stands in the right-of-way.


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Vintage car locked up at repair shop for 15 months, owner wants it back http://www.wbrz.com/news/vintage-car-locked-up-at-repair-shop-for-15-months-owner-wants-it-back/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/vintage-car-locked-up-at-repair-shop-for-15-months-owner-wants-it-back/ On Your Side Wed, 13 Jun 2018 5:51:57 PM Brittany Weiss Vintage car locked up at repair shop for 15 months, owner wants it back

BATON ROUGE - There's been big-time frustration for a man who says his hot rod has been locked up for more than a year. William McKinley says he paid a man to do some body work on his vintage car last year and he still doesn't have his vehicle back.

"Everything he said he was going to do he hasn't done none of that," said McKinley.

In March 2017, McKinley had arranged to have his car sanded and painted by Just Like Glass Customs on Plank Road in Baker. As far as McKinley knows, the $3,000 job he paid for hasn't been completed. He tells 2 On Your Side he heard about the car shop from a friend and thought he was in good hands.

"Price was right and I went with it," he said.

The car is a 1965 Chevrolet Nova and it's McKinley's restoration project. He's already restored the engine but says it needed some love on the outside. Now, 15 months later the work he paid the shop owner to do hasn't been done and he says his patience has been tested.

"Never get no response, wasn't answering the phone, nobody answering the door," he said.

Wednesday morning, McKinley visited the shop along with 2 On Your Side. The doors were locked and the lights were turned off. McKinley has called the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office twice, once in February and another time in May to check on the progress.

EBRSO says it recognizes this case as civil.

"He promised the sheriff's office and me that he would have my car ready by the end of March," he said.

That month has passed and McKinley asked that his money and property be returned. On May 8 2018, shop owner Guaylan Adams texted McKinley a video that said he'd return partial payment to him.

"This video is to ensure Mr. William that I will pay him his $1,300 as a return of funds for repairs on his Nova," Adams said in the video recording.

McKinley says he's still waiting for the money and his car is still locked up. He's not sure what condition that car is in because he hasn't seen it since February 8, 2018.

For the last two weeks, Guaylan Adams has told 2 On Your Side that he's been trying to get that money together to give back to McKinley but he's short a couple hundred dollars. Adams also tells 2 On Your Side he'd call McKinley to update him on this matter. No call was ever made.

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Amite River changes route, concerns over flooding caused by debris http://www.wbrz.com/news/amite-river-changes-route-concerns-over-flooding-caused-by-debris/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/amite-river-changes-route-concerns-over-flooding-caused-by-debris/ On Your Side Tue, 12 Jun 2018 5:46:39 PM Brittany Weiss Amite River changes route, concerns over flooding caused by debris

CENTRAL - The thought of flooding again is still fresh in the minds of those who went through it a couple of years ago.

In August 2016, many homes in Central, northern parts of East Baton Rouge Parish and Livingston Parish flooded when heavy rains inundated the Amite River and Comite River. While legislation has passed to assess and dredge the Comite River, Central resident Marcus Michelli says a portion of the Amite River needs to be looked at more closely.

"Everyone in Livingston and everyone, everyone's on pins and needles about these rainstorms because everyone out here knows this is the issue," said Michelli.

This past weekend, Michelli and his family took a kayak trip down the Amite River. They hopped in near Watson and ended at Florida Blvd. Michelli says just south of Magnolia Bridge, at the Central and Denham Springs line, the river has changed direction.

He says what was once an area where the river turned into a horseshoe, is dry dirt. The river has choked off that horseshoe, cutting a path through the trees, knocking a good portion of them down into the new rivers new path. He says the river now makes an almost 90-degree turn.

"The water was rushing through there 15-20 miles an hour," he said. "A lot of debris, a lot of trees, a lot of oak trees that made it pretty much impassable."

While on their trip down the river, at that specific location Michelli says some areas were only inches deep and his kayak scraped the bottom silt. Other areas were feet deep and debris blocked the flow.

The Amite River Basin Commission tells WBRZ rivers are constantly changing and seeking a way to move water more efficiently, but what's happened on the Amite can't be ignored and must be assessed. The concern is how the river change impacts properties, the flow of the river, and flooding. The Commission says there is no formal program in the state for maintaining waterways.

A bill, authored by Central Republican Sen. Bodi White was recently approved to allow the Comite River to be dredged, cleared, and snagged. The Comite is part of the Scenic Rivers Act, which prohibits dredging and realignment of the waterway to preserve the free-flowing waterways for natural, cultural, and recreational purposes.

This part of the Amite River is not part of the scenic rivers system, but Michelli thinks the Amite has been overlooked.

"I think this is the main issue, this debris, this river silt," he said. "Unless they dredge this channel out, anything that they're doing north of us is not going to make a difference."

Michelli says when the river needs to drain the next time, he's worried it might not drain as fast as he would like.

Tuesday, WBRZ reached out to a number of agencies for information on who would be responsible for attacking the debris and dredging of the Amite River. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Department of Transportation and Development, the Amite River Basin Commission does not claim responsibility. WBRZ has also reached out to parish officials in East Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes.

Livingston Parish says it plans to visit the spot next week and get a price to have that debris removed.

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Backseat reminder hang tags help prevent hot car deaths http://www.wbrz.com/news/backseat-reminder-hang-tags-help-prevent-hot-car-deaths/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/backseat-reminder-hang-tags-help-prevent-hot-car-deaths/ On Your Side Thu, 7 Jun 2018 5:26:50 PM Brittany Weiss Backseat reminder hang tags help prevent hot car deaths

BATON ROUGE - There are a lot of distractions in our daily lives and no parent thinks it will happen to them. Still, hot car deaths happen every year as temperatures rise. It's why Woman's Hospital is offering a free reminder hang tag, to check the backseat before you lock your car.

Angela Hammett, a prenatal education coordinator at Woman's Hospital says leaving your child in a hot car is preventable.

"Awareness is the key and prevention is the key," said Hammett.

According to Kids and Cars, a child advocacy group, a major factor leading to hot car deaths is a change in routine. It can be as simple as stopping off at the grocery store, or a parent changes daycare drop-off schedules instead of going straight to work. It only takes a few minutes for a child's body temperature to spike.

It's why a baby-nurse at Woman's Hospital thought up the idea to design a visual reminder. The hang tags are bright pink and hang on the rear-view mirror. It alerts the driver of the car to check behind them before exiting. 

"It's not meant to take the place of anything, it's just meant to create more awareness to check your backseat," said Hammett. 

Parents are also encouraged to leave a material item in the backseat, so you'll check before you leave the car.

"Some of the other things you can do is leave your purse or your laptop bag some even say leave your left shoe in the backseat," said Hammett.

The hang tags are available at Woman's Hospital at 100 Woman's way off of Airline Highway or Woman's Center for Wellness at 9637 Jefferson Highway. They can also be downloaded and printed at home.

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History revealed under facade at shopping center http://www.wbrz.com/news/history-revealed-under-facade-at-shopping-center/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/history-revealed-under-facade-at-shopping-center/ On Your Side Wed, 6 Jun 2018 5:03:49 PM Brittany Weiss History revealed under facade at shopping center

BATON ROUGE - Drivers and shopping customers along Jefferson Highway have recently noticed a piece of history uncovered by a construction crew. Old signs from years ago have reappeared on the facade of Goodwood Shopping Center, bringing back memories.

Ronny Rodriguez of Hammerhead Contractors, LLC says his crew uncovered the signs recently while they worked to change the parapet wall in the front and replace the roof.

The signs underneath reveal lettering for places like Endlings Bookstore, Pois N Ivy clothing store, a furniture shop, and Joe D's Grocery and Market.

"Been a lot of people come by and take pictures of that sign and people asking if we can have it," said Rodriguez. "It's made out of plaster, you can come and get it but I'm not taking it down."

Rodriguez says while they've been working on the job, he's seen a few people come by to take pictures. He remembers Joe D's Italian po-boy's, burgers, and chicken sandwiches for 60 cents apiece.

The new facade will be white stucco with black striping.

Rodriguez says it will bring a fresh, crisp look to the area. It will go right over the old memories, once again preserving history.


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Property caving in for years, homeowner can't find relief http://www.wbrz.com/news/property-caving-in-for-years-homeowner-can-t-find-relief/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/property-caving-in-for-years-homeowner-can-t-find-relief/ On Your Side Tue, 5 Jun 2018 5:50:28 PM Brittany Weiss Property caving in for years, homeowner can't find relief

DONALDSONVILLE - A drainage pipe busted underground and it's been causing problems for a homeowner for nearly a decade.

Keith Bradford says he can't seem to find anyone who wants to take responsibility and it should have been repaired a long time ago.

"It was a little small hole," said Bradford. "It just kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger."

Bradford says his property, which backs up to start of Bayou Lafourche, twists and turns. In one area, the land has caved in forming a hole that's large enough to fit a few cars. At the bottom of that hole, Bradford says there is a broken pipe and a pool of water.

"It's 10-foot deep with water in it," he said. "I'm scared somebody might fall in there and drown or something."

Bradford's family has owned the same property he currently lives on since the 1880s. He says the pipe was originally installed in the 1950s. That pipeline carries drainage water from the City of Donaldsonville, through his property, to Bayou Lafourche. Now when it rains, that water floods his property instead of draining where it's supposed to.

"Like a river," he said.

For years Bradford says he's gone back and forth with Ascension Parish, the West Ascension Drainage Board, and Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District about who will fix the busted pipe.

"They're always trying to put the finger on somebody else," he said.

In 2016, the issue was brought before the drainage board and the fresh water district to see what can be done to resolve the problem. Since then, no solution has been made.

The issue might be determining who placed the pipe there in the first place. Which to this day remains unknown.

Ben Malbrough of Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District was at that meeting. He said then he hoped he could resolve the issue. Tuesday, he says, "once the proper authority is identified as to who owns the pipe, the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District has and continues to stand willing to cooperate and help facilitate an amicable solution for all parties."

Ascension Parish says its Department of Public Works has been out to this property to inspect the problem. It says any servitude along the bayou would be maintained by the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District. It also says it's not sure who owns the drainage pipe in question.

Other than inspecting the problem, Ascension Parish says it cannot pinpoint a cause because it does not have a drainage servitude on the property. Bradford says he will not sign off on a right-of-way with the parish but instead will grant them permission to do any necessary work needed.

Ascension Parish also says it is ready to assist the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District in whatever manner it can.

Bradford says it's time someone made a decision.

"It's only going to get bigger and cost more to fix," he said.

Tuesday, 2 On Your Side reached out to the City of Donaldsonville regarding the drainage pipe but did not hear back by the time the story aired.

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Property owner at focus of OYS report says he takes in people others won't http://www.wbrz.com/news/property-owner-at-focus-of-oys-report-says-he-takes-in-people-others-won-t/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/property-owner-at-focus-of-oys-report-says-he-takes-in-people-others-won-t/ On Your Side Fri, 1 Jun 2018 3:28:21 PM Brittany Weiss Property owner at focus of OYS report says he takes in people others won't

BATON ROUGE - Earlier this week the State Fire Marshal cleared a Baton Rouge property owner after a 2 On Your Side report highlighted poor living conditions. That owner says he takes in the destitute and those with mental illness because few others will.

Brent Honore, the owner of Brittany's Place on Burbank Drive in Baton Rouge says he's offering people a place to live, many, rent free.

"Unfortunately, only a quarter of the people here pay something," said Honore.

He says he's been offering shelter to these people after a business deal fell through. For a decade, he's been taking calls from people who have no where to go.

Last week, 2 On Your Side viewed one of the units where Jason Drew's brother lived. Drew showed reporter Brittany Weiss what he described has horrible living conditions. The only working toilet in the unit was stopped up and there was a large hole in the downstairs ceiling. The sink was full of brown water and there was mold growing on the tile floor.

Drew's brother lived there with a number of other people who have mental illness. He was charged $866 a month for his own room while others were charged $608 a month to share a room.

"I wouldn't let my dog stay over here," said Drew.

Last week, 2 On Your Side starting asking questions about these conditions and the Department of Health and Hospitals filed a complaint. This week, the State Fire Marshal's Office investigated and cited Honore for fire code violations. Honore was cleared of those violations Wednesday, when he made upgrades to his two dozens units at Brittany's Place.

Honore says the conditions Drew described and showed 2 On Your Side are only conducive to two units at the facility. He says he's not offering any services and only a few people are being charged rent so they have a place to stay instead of living on the street.

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