WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ WBRZ On Your Side On Your Side en-us Copyright 2021, WBRZ. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Sun, 5 Dec 2021 HH:12:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ 144 25 Amid flood of 2 On Your Side complaints, DEMCO promises big drop in power costs https://www.wbrz.com/news/amid-flood-of-2-on-your-side-complaints-demco-promises-big-drop-in-power-costs/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/amid-flood-of-2-on-your-side-complaints-demco-promises-big-drop-in-power-costs/ On Your Side Thu, 2 Dec 2021 1:52:35 PM WBRZ Staff Amid flood of 2 On Your Side complaints, DEMCO promises big drop in power costs

BATON ROUGE - After months of complaints over ballooning electricity bills, DEMCO says its customers can expect some relief early next year. 

The power company said in a news release Thursday that it is close to paying off costs associated with February's winter storm and the closure of one of its power suppliers in northwest Louisiana, costs which DEMCO says have been getting passed onto customers. 

"The good news is that we are close to paying off the winter storm costs, and we will soon see the end of higher costs tied to the Dolet Hills plant closing," DEMCO's statement read in part. "As a result, the monthly kilowatt-hour price from DEMCO to our members will decrease by about 25 percent beginning in early 2022."

For months, 2 On Your Side has fielded an influx of calls and emails from frustrated DEMCO customers over their skyrocketing power bills. 

Saint Amant resident Brandi Bourgeois said she recently received a $1500 Demco bill.

"I literally panicked," Bourgeois said. "Demco said they didn't have enough people to go read the meters and a lot of meters weren't working properly, so they were just estimating our bill."

Demco says they had a problem with the communication between meters and the remote automated readers because of disruptions like Hurricane Ida.

"We knew that was happening so Demco has done everything we can to make sure that we get those readings accurate," said Demco spokesperson David Latona. "If that bill is too high for that customer to handle, we'll work with them and spread those payments out as long and as far as they like."

Read the company's full statement below. 

Dear Members,

I hope you and your loved ones had a blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving last week. Given the past couple of years of distanced celebrations due to COVID, it was a much-needed and very special time to be with family and friends in person.

As we wrap up 2021, I reflect on the many challenges that have impacted the co-op and our members. We experienced winter storm Uri in February, an unprecedented increase in wholesale power costs, and then there was Hurricane Ida - the worst storm in DEMCO history.

Since the purpose of these monthly emails is for me, the CEO and General Manager of DEMCO, to communicate important matters of the cooperative with you – the member-owners, I want to recap these issues with you now, even though I have previously addressed them throughout the year. My aim is to assure you that the DEMCO board of directors, leadership, and staff are all acutely aware of these issues, and we are united in our approach to address these issues for the benefit of our co-op members.

First, wholesale power costs for DEMCO rose 60 percent beginning this past summer. One reason for this increase is DEMCO spread the costs of Winter Storm Uri over a year to prevent a shocking increase in one month. The Louisiana Public Service Commission allowed this approach for all utilities to help all ratepayers. Paying these costs over time has increased rates by about five percent per month.

The main driver, though, of higher wholesale power costs since the summer is the extraordinary closing costs related to our power supplier permanently shutting down the Dolet Hills Power Station in Mansfield, LA. These closing costs have been pushed into the rates of all CLECO consumers, including wholesale customers like DEMCO. The Dolet Hills closing costs have increased retail rates by about 25 percent over the past six months. All of this is exacerbated by higher fuel costs over the same period.

The good news is that we are close to paying off the winter storm costs, and we will soon see the end of higher costs tied to the Dolet Hills plant closing. As a result, the monthly kilowatt-hour price from DEMCO to our members will decrease by about 25 percent beginning in early 2022.

Further good news is DEMCO negotiated, signed, and submitted new wholesale power contracts to the Louisiana Public Service Commission for review and approval. If approved, these contracts will take effect in April 2024 and will save DEMCO members $160 million over the ten-year life of the contracts.

In an economic impact study, Dr. James Richardson, Professor Emeritus of Louisiana State University, projects the economic outcomes of lower electricity prices, and the results are staggering. Because of DEMCO members spending less on electricity, they will likely spend these savings in other areas of the economy resulting in almost $270 million in increased economic transactions, which will lead to about $90 million in additional personal earnings, almost 3,000 new jobs, and over $12 million in additional state and local tax receipts.

DEMCO will boldly and aggressively advocate for the adoption of these contracts on your behalf and the economic benefit of our seven-parish service area.

Another challenge that has affected some DEMCO members over the past few months is estimated bills. The number of estimated bills increased beginning this summer in part due to our inability to obtain new meters to replace older, failing meters. Today’s electric meters utilize similar digital chips required for vehicles, and as we all know, we are experiencing a shortage of these chips.

As a result of Hurricane Ida, DEMCO also experienced damage to our automatic meter reading infrastructure. DEMCO has been working hard to resolve these problems and is deploying employees to read meters until our automated system can be fully repaired and implemented.

As DEMCO employees, we strive to do our very best every day. Our number one priority is to deliver excellent service to you – our co-op members. Each of us is committed to working hard, and even when you may not see it, we are working before and after hours to tackle problems that affect you.

Permalink| Comments

Cafeteria worker's apartment floods again, living in mold https://www.wbrz.com/news/cafeteria-worker-s-apartment-floods-again-living-in-mold/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/cafeteria-worker-s-apartment-floods-again-living-in-mold/ On Your Side Mon, 22 Nov 2021 6:18:31 PM Bess Casserleigh Cafeteria worker's apartment floods again, living in mold

BATON ROUGE - When cafeteria worker Sana Trahan came home to her Magnolia Trace apartment last week, she was standing in water.

"I came home Wednesday to a flood. It was like a fire hydrant went off in my apartment," Trahan said.

A burst line on her toilet had flooded her entire place.

"The water was gushing out like a waterfall in the bathroom," she said.

Trahan has been a cafeteria worker with East Baton Rouge schools for the last 20 years. She says this is the second time her apartment has flooded in this way. Trahan does not have renter's insurance.

"I lost my mattress, my box spring. I lost clothes and shoes that was in the closet that I hadn't put away. I lost a lot of personal items."

According to her, the apartment managers refuse to replace anything, not even the carpet. They are using a fan to dry it out instead.

"You can smell the mold in there that's grown."

Trahan says the most important thing for her right now is to have a proper place to sleep.

"All I asked them was to please replace my box spring and my mattress so that I can have someplace to sleep. Now, I'm sleeping on a hard rock sofa."

No one answered the door or the phone at Magnolia Trace Apartments.

Permalink| Comments

Repeat flood victim bought out by state for interstate project, relieved to move on https://www.wbrz.com/news/repeat-flood-victim-bought-out-by-state-for-interstate-project-relieved-to-move-on/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/repeat-flood-victim-bought-out-by-state-for-interstate-project-relieved-to-move-on/ On Your Side Fri, 15 Oct 2021 5:42:48 PM Brittany Weiss Repeat flood victim bought out by state for interstate project, relieved to move on

BATON ROUGE - The state has started buying up properties for the I-10 expansion project in Baton Rouge. One man, who has been interviewed by 2 On Your Side before, says he recently received his buyout payment and he's very relieved.

Robby Huey got his check a few days ago and he's already looking for a new home - one that's out of a flood zone and away from the interstate project.

For 28 years, Huey has called his house on Honeysuckle Avenue home. Those years have brought good days and plenty of bad. He's lost track of how many times he's flooded but says it's between eight and 10. Another 15-20 storms have been close calls.

In May, 2 On Your Side visited Huey the last time he flooded. Then, he had stacked up his furniture on milk crates. It's something he has gotten used to doing.

"It's like a drill you have to go through every time there's a threat of rain," Huey said.

The future is about to get a lot drier for Huey. He's saying goodbye to his neighborhood and moving on. The State Department of Transportation and Development bought him out.

"The offer was good, better than I expected," he said.

DOTD wants the property for the interstate expansion project, and as Huey understands it, the state is buying up other properties in the area. So far, DOTD says it's acquired four properties for the project. It won't know the exact number of properties it needs until the final right-of-way maps are completed.

The look of Honeysuckle Avenue is changing. Properties are being elevated, bought, and torn down through various avenues. Homeowners there have been plagued with flooding issues for a long time. Dawson Creek, which runs along Acadian Thruway and parallel to Honeysuckle Avenue, swells with water during rain events. That water often flows down Huey's street.

Earlier this year, one man took it upon himself to clean out Dawson Creek by removing about 100 trees.

The people who are getting help with their homes are relieved.

"Finally I can get some peace of mind and sleep at night and not wake up for being alarmed whenever I see a bad weather report," Huey said.

Huey has waited a long time for that peace of mind. He first heard the state was planning to buy properties three and a half years ago.

"It's been a godsend, because it was worth waiting on, it really was," he said.

He plans to take the money and find a place that's out of harm's way. He has three months to move out.

While DOTD is still working on acquiring properties, earlier this year the city-parish said 66 homes will either be elevated or acquired in the parish through various grants.

Permalink| Comments

FEMA reps in parishes with no damage, sheriff says citizens are concerned https://www.wbrz.com/news/fema-reps-in-parishes-with-no-damage-sheriff-says-citizens-are-concerned/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/fema-reps-in-parishes-with-no-damage-sheriff-says-citizens-are-concerned/ On Your Side Thu, 14 Oct 2021 5:26:05 PM Brittany Weiss FEMA reps in parishes with no damage, sheriff says citizens are concerned

BATON ROUGE - There are dozens, probably many more, of FEMA fraud complaints under investigation. It's unlikely anyone will be able to stop the scammers stealing people's names and filing phony disaster claims. One sheriff is fed up and has a message about just how out of control it has become.

For the last couple of weeks, 2 On Your Side has asked FEMA just how bad the fraud situation is following Hurricane Ida. FEMA can't quite say but is aware it's happening. Now Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi says his phones are busy with complaints.

"We're averaging between eight and 10 calls per day as FEMA representatives have shown up at houses in Iberville Parish requesting to see the damage that was done to their homes." said Stassi. "These individuals have not filed FEMA claims."

The reports of fraud have been discovered as FEMA representatives show up in parishes following Hurricane Ida. Those reps are responding to filed claims in parishes where there was no damage from the storm.

The representatives are sometimes from Vanguard Inspection Services, contracted by FEMA. They are showing up to homes with names and other information as if someone's filed a damage claim, but they haven't.

Stassi says it's worrying people in Iberville Parish, where there are numerous complaints right now.

"It immediately scares them to death, and then they start worrying about their personal banking," Stassi said.

And whether or not their information has been compromised. Stassi says he's been getting calls from other sheriffs, including Pointe Coupee, East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge.

Mike Prejean lives in Port Allen. He says his street is damage-free, but FEMA reps have been knocking on doors there.

"It was pretty obvious. You drove by and there's nothing," he said. "I know there's at least five people on my street where they went to their house."

If you aren't home, a FEMA rep might leave a note on your door to call them back regardless of whether you filed a claim.

"I just don't know what information they got and how do we find out other than checking our credit score?" Prejean said.

Stassi says it's worrying the public and that FEMA reps visiting his parish say these reps could be using their time better somewhere else.

"They could be in Houma, Lafourche, Terrebonne, where the people have really suffered," Stassi said. "St. John, St. James, and we have representatives running around our parish where we have no damage."

FEMA says inspectors will always have an official identification badge. Always ask to see ID. Any FEMA inspector or other employee with an expired badge is not to be considered as a legitimate representative of the Agency.

FEMA says people who have been impacted by such scams are urged to call the FEMA Helpline, 800-621-3362, to report what happened. FEMA will then flag the fraudulent registration. Those citizens who had not yet registered, but who have legitimate reasons to do so, will be helped to overcome the fraud and file a normal request for help from FEMA.

The Department of Justice is also getting involved, urging suspected Hurricane Ida fraud victims to file complaints with disaster fraud at 866-720-5721.

Permalink| Comments

Homeowner's property sinking due to years-old sewer issue, City-Parish says it's not responsible https://www.wbrz.com/news/homeowner-s-property-sinking-due-to-years-old-sewer-issue-city-parish-says-it-s-not-responsible/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/homeowner-s-property-sinking-due-to-years-old-sewer-issue-city-parish-says-it-s-not-responsible/ On Your Side Mon, 11 Oct 2021 5:07:41 PM Brittany Weiss Homeowner's property sinking due to years-old sewer issue, City-Parish says it's not responsible

BATON ROUGE - A woman says a work crew may have done more harm than good when they tried to fix her sinking yard. Now she's facing serious issues with her home.

Barbara Davis feels like she's being ignored and no one will help her.

"They don't care. They just don't care," Davis said. "And it shouldn't be our job to correct it."

It all started in 2017 when Davis says her husband first noticed changes in her backyard.

"We thought there was a pipe leak," she said.

At that point, Davis says they started calling the City-Parish, but no action was taken until 2019.

The sewer pipe runs under Davis' driveway. It's where the City-Parish found three leaks, and it eventually led them to tear up the driveway in 2020, replace the sewer pipe, and pour new concrete. Ever since, she says, the job has caused her nothing but trouble.

"Our home is destroyed," she said. "It's not our fault, and the people who destroyed it... lies."

Davis says when the City-Parish did the work, a backhoe was used instead of a jackhammer to break up the driveway. She says that force into the ground, combined with years of sewer pipe erosion caused her home to crack in several places.

A week after the driveway was completed, Davis says a hole at the end of the driveway opened up. Davis says it sat there for months until someone came by and filled it with dirt. She says cracks have formed around the house, in the carport, and now in the newly-poured driveway.

She fears that the dirt under the new driveway was not compacted properly. On top of that, she's having flooding issues. Sandbags have become a permanent fixture in her yard, so have feet and feet of piping that line the driveway and connect to a sump pump. That pump helps to remove standing water from the back yard and carport, which Davis says sunk due to the sewer pipe damage.

"My husband has to get up if it's three o'clock in the morning to turn the pumps on to keep water from getting into her house," said Davis.

She's begging the city for help hoping someone will listen. The City-Parish says it's washed its hands of this and the case is closed. It tells 2 On Your Side that Davis has a history of foundation issues, and they are not responsible for what has happened. Davis says she was made promises, and those promises were not kept.

"This is our city. Our city has destroyed our home," she said.

Davis is now in a tough spot. She's sought out bids to elevate her house to keep it from cracking any further and says it could cost $17,000 to make her home level again. It's that, or hire a lawyer. Davis says she can't afford to do both.

"I feel like they'd rather have us sue than pay anything," she said.

The City-Parish says Davis can always file another claim. Davis isn't sure that will do anything and as time goes on, fears her situation will only get worse.

Permalink| Comments

Growing concerns over FEMA fraud, scammers pretending to be victims https://www.wbrz.com/news/growing-concerns-over-fema-fraud-scammers-pretending-to-be-victims/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/growing-concerns-over-fema-fraud-scammers-pretending-to-be-victims/ On Your Side Thu, 7 Oct 2021 5:00:14 PM Brittany Weiss Growing concerns over FEMA fraud, scammers pretending to be victims

ST. GABRIEL - There's growing concern over FEMA fraud after Hurricane Ida.

Wednesday, 2 On Your Side told you about a FEMA claim filed with someone's name and address, but the wrong phone number. That person never filed a claim and reported it as fraud when FEMA went to her house looking for more information. Since that story, WBRZ has received a few reports of similar incidents.

The problem is with people who don't know their information is being used to file wrongful claims on their behalf. Thursday, 2 On Your Side asked FEMA if there's a way to look up your information to see if a claim has been filed in your name. There isn't, and FEMA doesn't recommend people call to check.

Phil Doiron lives in St. Gabriel and says earlier this week a Vanguard Inspector Services, a FEMA subcontractor, knocked on his door to review his storm damage in response to a filed claim.

"He had all of his credentials and he asked if he could look at my damage I had on my claim," Doiron said.

Except Doiron never filed a disaster claim with FEMA.

"Right away he said my identity had been stolen, and he said someone made a claim in my name," Doiron said.

The representative who knocked on Doiron's door said FEMA had all of his information, including his social security number. He was told to contact FEMA's fraud hotline and report it.

Doiron says he's been having trouble getting through to the fraud line but did reach someone at the regular FEMA number who confirmed they had all his information for a submitted claim and it had already been paid.

"It's amazing how inefficient the government is, just sending out this money to people going online filing these claims."

Doiron likely would have had no idea had that FEMA representative not stopped by his house.

As of Wednesday, FEMA says it's approved more than 513,000 applications for disaster assistance and more than $752 million to help Louisiana residents recover.

FEMA says representatives are in neighborhoods helping people to sign up for assistance. They will ask for social security numbers and bank account numbers when an application is submitted and may ask for it again after you apply. It warns that applicants should be cautious because scam artists can pose as government officials. Remember to ask for an ID badge. A FEMA jacket or shirt doesn't necessarily mean they are representing the organization. FEMA will not contact you unless you have called FEMA first or applied for assistance.

That is unless you're like Doiron and someone submitted your information without your knowledge.

While the concern over fraudulent submissions is high, FEMA does not recommend people call into the Helpline to check if someone else has made an application in their name. Instead, FEMA recommends that people stay current with their credit report information and make note of any suspicious activity.

It is most often the individual or applicant that notifies FEMA of suspected fraud against their identity. More information about disaster fraud can be found here.

It's not quite clear how FEMA will handle Doiron's fraud claim it paid out, but it says it does go after claims flagged as fraud. You can report scams, fraud and identity theft to FEMA's disaster fraud hotline at 866-720-5721. A recording might tell you to fill out a form online due to high call volume.

Permalink| Comments

FEMA disaster fraud catches one woman by surprise, others could be victims https://www.wbrz.com/news/fema-disaster-fraud-catches-one-woman-by-surprise-others-could-be-victims/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/fema-disaster-fraud-catches-one-woman-by-surprise-others-could-be-victims/ On Your Side Wed, 6 Oct 2021 5:26:24 PM Brittany Weiss FEMA disaster fraud catches one woman by surprise, others could be victims

BATON ROUGE - Fraud follows disasters and Hurricane Ida is no different. Some people are finding out that someone is using their names to sign-up for FEMA disaster assistance.

One woman, who does not want to be identified, found out it happened to her when FEMA knocked on her door. She's sharing her story with 2 On Your Side.

"I'm angry someone would do this to me!" she said. "A FEMA representative knocked on the door and said he was there to ascertain the amount of damages and what I was eligible for from FEMA."

FEMA reps have been going door to door this week helping people sign up for assistance. She says the FEMA rep knocked on her door about a week ago. He had her name, birth date, address, and two phone numbers that were not hers.

"He said I had applied - or someone had applied in my name - for FEMA assistance, and I said it was not me."

For the last few decades, she's lived in the Monticello neighborhood of Baton Rouge. She's thankful she did not receive much damage from Hurricane Ida, other than a broken fence and spoiled food.

"I couldn't even claim it on my homeowner's. There was so little damage done that I didn't even bother," she said.

Now, she's filed a claim through the National Center for Disaster Fraud. What really gets her is that there are others out there who may not know their information is in jeopardy.

"The fellow that came to the door told me that he already had six other addresses that this had happened with, and I believe most of them were in this area."

She hopes anyone else whose identity might be used for FEMA assistance finds out before it's too late.

More information about how to report FEMA fraud can be found here. FEMA’s toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline is 866-720-5721.

FEMA and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA will not offer financial help and then ask for money or personal information. It also warns that FEMA will not contact you unless you have called FEMA first or applied for assistance. FEMA representatives will ask for social security and bank account numbers when you apply and may ask for them again after you apply. Be cautious when giving this information to others who ask for it. Scam artists may pose

as government officials, aid workers, or insurance company employees.

If a FEMA representative knocks on your door, ask to see their ID badge. All FEMA representatives carry an identification badge with a photograph. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity.

Permalink| Comments

Large hole still not repaired, neighborhood fears utility companies are pointing fingers https://www.wbrz.com/news/large-hole-still-not-repaired-neighborhood-fears-utility-companies-are-pointing-fingers/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/large-hole-still-not-repaired-neighborhood-fears-utility-companies-are-pointing-fingers/ On Your Side Tue, 5 Oct 2021 5:28:47 PM Brittany Weiss Large hole still not repaired, neighborhood fears utility companies are pointing fingers

DENHAM SPRINGS - There's a lot of trouble over a hole in Livingston Parish that no one can seem to get fixed.

Damon Hebert moved into the Audubon Lakes neighborhood last November. The hole has opened up the sidewalk in front of his home. He tells 2 On Your Side it was an issue before he moved in but had been told it was fixed.

"Everybody told me when I first moved in that all this had been done, it was repaired. But I started noticing under the sidewalk erosion going on," Hebert said.

Earlier this year, that erosion grew to nearly two feet deep. He says he started making phone calls to utility companies that might be involved.

"The water company, the local utility companies, the parish, the city... That kind of thing," he said.

A couple of months ago, someone came by to dig up the sidewalk for a better look at what was happening below. The dirt is still sitting in Hebert's front yard and there's been a large hole in the ground ever since.

"It just kept getting worse and worse and worse and now, we're up to this."

Hebert says trying to figure out who is responsible for the mess has taken up too much of his spare time.

"Both Cox and AT&T says it's Entergy. Entergy says it's not them," Hebert said. "They have an adjuster assigned to my case. He's called me a couple of times but he says they're not doing much."

Cox, AT&T, Entergy, Livingston Parish DPW, and Ward 2 Water District have been contacted by 2 On Your Side. Entergy says the claim referenced by the customer remains open and it's investigating the circumstances of what happened. Ward 2 Water District says it will have its servicemen check it out. DPW says the utility company responsible for the hole in the pipe is working with their sub-contractor to get the situation corrected. Cox and AT&T are both looking into it.

At some point, it looks like repairs were made. Hebert says the pipe is still in need of repair and needs work.

"It's not very well done and wasn't repaired properly because it started leaking, eroding almost immediately," he said.

Hebert reached out to 2 On Your Side because he thinks progress has stalled.

"I mean, this has been nearly a year of me looking at this. Neighbors are asking me what's going on and I can't explain it to them because I don't know," said Hebert. "All I know is that it's leaking."

Hebert says he heard from an Entergy claims adjuster about a week ago. While he's waiting for an update, Hebert says he's tired of looking at the mess in front of his house. He also fears with Halloween right around the corner that someone is going to get hurt.

"It's an absolute hazard," he said. "If someone falls in they're going to have a problem on their hands fast."

This story will be updated.

Permalink| Comments

Councilman fails investigation by permit office, neighbor still worried about flooding https://www.wbrz.com/news/councilman-fails-investigation-by-permit-office-neighbor-still-worried-about-flooding/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/councilman-fails-investigation-by-permit-office-neighbor-still-worried-about-flooding/ On Your Side Fri, 1 Oct 2021 5:31:39 PM Brittany Weiss Councilman fails investigation by permit office, neighbor still worried about flooding

BATON ROUGE - The City-Parish says it mailed District 6 Metro Councilman Cleve Dunn a letter regarding a number of violations it found on the property he owns outside of his district.

His neighbor, Eugene Michelli, contacted 2 On Your Side after he said his complaints to the city were taking a long time to address.

"It seems like the city has just played this really slow since I've turned it in," said Michelli.

Michelli says Dunn made some property improvements next door about a year ago and those improvements created a mess.

"I mean, all I can do is pray and hope for the best," said Michelli. "I can't get no help from nobody."

He says that mess has washed away his front yard and flooded his house in May.

"We're staying up during the day or night when it rains to keep the sump pumps going," he said.

Last week, Michelli showed us his bare floors which had been torn up for months. Since then he's installed new ones.

"I mean, now that we've got all of our flooring back down we're scared to death," he said.

Dunn tells 2 On Your Side he doesn't have the same opinion as his neighbor because it rained multiple days this week and he didn't flood. Dunn says based on the information he has, there's no proof that the structure on his property is causing Michelli any flooding.

The City-Parish failed Dunn's property on multiple inspections saying violations exist and the work is not permitted. The inspection reports say a fence Dunn had built appears to be over the property line, a structure is built too close to the servitude, and the driveway is too wide.

This week, Dunn failed an investigation by the inspection department. He was mailed a certified letter and says he received it this week. The City-Parish visited the property to see if the violations had been addressed and found they had not been.

Dunn tells 2 On Your Side that he plans to work with the City-Parish inspection department to come to a resolution. So far, Dunn says he has not met with the department.

The City-Parish letter does not give Dunn a specific amount of time to respond. The Parish says a "good faith effort" is expected, otherwise, the matter will be turned over to the parish attorney's office.

Permalink| Comments

House hit 3 times by vehicles running off road, property owner asking for help https://www.wbrz.com/news/house-hit-3-times-by-vehicles-running-off-road-property-owner-asking-for-help/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/house-hit-3-times-by-vehicles-running-off-road-property-owner-asking-for-help/ On Your Side Tue, 28 Sep 2021 4:53:17 PM Brittany Weiss House hit 3 times by vehicles running off road, property owner asking for help

BATON ROUGE - A repeat problem has one man calling 2 On Your Side for help. He says vehicles keep running into his house.

Robert Rogers has been working on fixing up a house at the corner of N. Foster Drive and Mohican Street. He's determined to get it done, but each time he's ready to move onto the next phase of the project, another vehicle comes barreling into his house.

"I'm trying to save it for my family," Rogers said.

The property has been through a lot, including a fire. Rogers says it just needs a little TLC. But the project is currently stalled because of the repeat problem of cars running off the road and into the structure.

"Every time I get ready to fix it, somebody run into it. That's the third time," he said.

The latest incident happened about a month ago. Rogers says the driver was not insured and took out the bricks on one side of the house. The car's bumper was left at the scene.

Rogers says each time a car runs off the road and into the house it sets him back. Instead of putting money into the house, he's putting money into a problem created by someone else.

"And that's hurting me. It's hurting me big time," he said.

It's preventing him from moving on to the next steps of repairing the property, including electric, plumbing, sheetrock, windows, and flooring.

A street lamp near the corner illuminates the area, but it might not be enough. It's why he's contacted the city-parish for help and says he met with a city engineer last week. Rogers is requesting some sort of barricade be put near the corner to prevent drivers from losing control. The city-parish told him signs might do the trick.

"You can put all the signs in the world you want out there, it ain't going to stop them from coming into my place and keep tearing it up," Rogers said. "They need to put something out here, some rails or something that's going to stop this."

The city-parish says it's considering additional signage in the area and that barricades would be more challenging since there is a limited right of way between the road and the house.

Permalink| Comments

Busted catch basin called into 311 last month, still no repair date https://www.wbrz.com/news/busted-catch-basin-called-into-311-last-month-still-no-repair-date/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/busted-catch-basin-called-into-311-last-month-still-no-repair-date/ On Your Side Mon, 27 Sep 2021 4:45:01 PM Brittany Weiss Busted catch basin called into 311 last month, still no repair date

BATON ROUGE - A sewer drain at the corner of Louise Street and Highland Road has been broken for at least a month.

It was called into 311 on Aug. 26, 2021 and again on Sept. 20. The person who called it in reported a large truck drove over the lid of the catch basin, breaking it.

The city-parish said on Monday that the service request is in progress, but there was no repair date provided. A barricade was placed there a while ago, but it's since been broken and pushed into the catch basin.

On Tuesday, a day after WBRZ aired its 2 On Your Side report, a makeshift barrier made off traffic cones was erected to block off the hole. 

Permalink| Comments

Committee questions state over handling of nursing home evacuations https://www.wbrz.com/news/committee-questions-state-over-handling-of-nursing-home-evacuations/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/committee-questions-state-over-handling-of-nursing-home-evacuations/ On Your Side Fri, 24 Sep 2021 5:17:46 PM Brittany Weiss Committee questions state over handling of nursing home evacuations

BATON ROUGE - New rules are being discussed for how emergency evacuations for nursing home facilities are handled. That's after a disastrous evacuation before Hurricane Ida that stranded more than 800 people in a warehouse ill-equipped to properly care for the residents. At least five have died from the experience.

A legislative committee wanted to know who signed off on the plans to send these nursing home residents to the warehouse in Independence. The discussion centered around doing better.

"My frustration is there was no food facility, they were cooking food in a pot outside the door with stacks of dirty diapers, it looked like a place Hitler sent people to," said Beth Mizell (R-Tangipahoa).

Lawyers for the Louisiana Department of Health sat before an oversight committee Friday, taking heat about what happened when seven nursing home facilities evacuated patients and moved them to Independence.

"We should have addressed the lack of standards a long time ago," Mizell said. "We walk around it. We walk around it, and we're afraid to go there and shame on us."

Fifteen nursing home residents have died after they were crammed into a mass shelter to ride out Hurricane Ida. Five of those deaths have been confirmed storm-related. Since the licenses for the facilities have been revoked, patients have been relocated to other facilities around the state, and lawsuits have been filed.

The committee repeatedly asked the state who signed off on the emergency plans to let it happen. The lawyers said the Louisiana Department of Health does not approve emergency preparedness plans. Instead, lawyers said nursing homes file their emergency plans with the local office of emergency preparedness. The state does receive a summary of the plans.

A WBRZ investigation found LDH had evacuation plans on file from the seven nursing homes involved in the evacuation debacle. While it doesn't approve them, the state says it reviews plan summaries to confirm that all required elements are contained.

LDH says the facility itself is responsible for the local health, safety and welfare of its residents.

An investigation involving multiple state agencies is ongoing. The committee says it's looking toward legislation to prevent the situation from happening again.

Permalink| Comments

Shipping delays felt nationwide, FedEx reports startling numbers https://www.wbrz.com/news/shipping-delays-felt-nationwide-fedex-reports-startling-numbers/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/shipping-delays-felt-nationwide-fedex-reports-startling-numbers/ On Your Side Thu, 23 Sep 2021 3:21:44 PM Brittany Weiss Shipping delays felt nationwide, FedEx reports startling numbers

BATON ROUGE - A shortage of workers is putting the brakes on shipping. FedEx is blaming workforce issues for causing serious delays, many felt in our area.

As FedEx trucks move in and out of the Baton Rouge hub Thursday, packages are headed for delivery. But some people tell 2 On Your Side it's not happening at the rate they're used to.

"Their timing, there's something wrong with their timing," Debbie Calandro said.

They're talking about packages that are in transit for weeks or pending delivery for days. Some sit in one location for days at a time or arrive in their city of delivery and sit there.

Calandro has been waiting on three packages.

"One of them since Sept. 2, one since Sept. 14, and one probably for about five days," she said.

All of them are perishable items. One of them has been sitting in Baton Rouge since Sunday and has a pending delivery.

"I'm sure the food will be rotten, they usually get here within 24-48 hours. The flowers I'm sure will be dead," she said.

FedEx says it's an issue all over, and the problem centers around a shortage of workers. FedEx revealed this week that at one hub in Portland, Oregon it's operating with about 65% of the staffing needed to handle its normal volume. It's resulting in FedEx diverting 25% of the volume that would normally flow through the hub there. FedEx says across the ground network, more than 600,000 packages are being rerouted daily.

FedEx says it's looking to hire about 90,000 people ahead of the fast-approaching busy season. In Baton Rouge, FedEx says it's still dealing with the aftereffects of Ida and Nicholas.

In the meantime, Calandro says she's called her dog food company and asked that they not ship through FedEx until the issues have been straightened out.

FedEx announced this week its rates are going up at the beginning of the year. The increase is about 6% and a little more for freight. FedEx says the increases will help continue to balance capacity and demand.

Service delays may vary. FedEx says it's based on a number of factors including the amount of medical and perishable shipments that are being prioritized for delivery. Already, stores and shipping companies are warning people to get ready for possibly holiday delays.

Calandro tells 2 On Your Side one of her packages did eventually arrive Thursday.

Permalink| Comments

Councilman, neighbor at odds over property enhancement project https://www.wbrz.com/news/councilman-neighbor-at-odds-over-property-enhancement-project/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/councilman-neighbor-at-odds-over-property-enhancement-project/ On Your Side Wed, 22 Sep 2021 3:37:17 PM Brittany Weiss Councilman, neighbor at odds over property enhancement project

BATON ROUGE - An East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman is at odds with his neighbors. Their property dispute is full of twists and turns and involves a councilman's backyard oasis at a property outside of his district.

The property is near Millerville Road and S. Flannery Road in Sherwood Manor Subdivision. Eugene Michelli lives next door and says he's been living in a mess for months.

"He started remodeling his driveway and his cabana and pool yard probably mid-October."

Watch the 2 On Your Side report live on Channel 2 and WBRZ+ at 6:00

Michelli says those property improvements are the source of his stress that's bleeding his pocketbook dry.

"The way he built the roof, it just pours into our property bad," Michelli said. "The water pours out from under the fence."

Michelli says his neighbor's property improvements are washing away his land, pushing dirt onto the sidewalk and into the street. It's also flooded his house. The water came into the house during the May 2021 storm, which caused many people to flood in Baton Rouge. Now he's got two sump-pumps to prevent it from happening again, and until there's a solution, he's worried about installing new floors.

He says he's suffered at least $25,000 in damages.

"And then I asked him not to put that fence up because that fence would be on my property - he put it up anyway," Michelli said.

His neighbor, District 6 Metro Councilman Cleve Dunn, tells 2 On Your Side that he's not responsible for the flooding concerns his neighbor has and that Michelli never flooded before and hasn't flooded since that May storm.

But the City-Parish seems to think there's an issue. The parish has failed Dunn's property on multiple inspections. The latest one was on Friday, Sept. 17. The inspection says that violations—including a fence that appears to be over the property line, a structure that's built too close to the servitude, and a driveway that's too wide—still exist on the property.

An inspection from July 23 says the driveway was installed without a permit, rainwater is draining onto the adjacent property, the outdoor kitchen exterior wall is not fire-rated, and there's a new electrical sub-panel with outlets and switches.

The subdivision's restrictions and building conditions state that no building shall be located on any lot nearer to the side property line than eight feet.

A City-Parish building official tells 2 On Your Side the work is not permitted. Dunn had applied for a permit, but there was not enough information supplied. The parish says Dunn needs construction and site plans. So far, Dunn hasn't been able to supply them.

Michelli had his property surveyed and sent the survey to the City-Parish for review. He maintains that this could all be fixed but so far cannot get his neighbor or the City-Parish to act in the way he's been hoping.

"He won't speak to me, so I don't know if we can make a compromise," he said.

Dunn declined to do an interview with 2 On Your Side but says he plans to meet with the parish soon about the issue. The City-Parish says it works with property owners in good faith to address code violations, and if there's a standstill, the matter will be referred to the parish attorney.

Permalink| Comments

Afghan refugees expected to start arriving in Baton Rouge by end of September https://www.wbrz.com/news/afghan-refugees-expected-to-start-arriving-in-baton-rouge-by-end-of-september/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/afghan-refugees-expected-to-start-arriving-in-baton-rouge-by-end-of-september/ On Your Side Fri, 17 Sep 2021 5:33:59 PM Brittany Weiss Afghan refugees expected to start arriving in Baton Rouge by end of September

BATON ROUGE - States have been notified about how many Afghan evacuees are being resettled in their areas. Out of nearly 37,000, there are 59 coming to Louisiana and 49 of them will be finding homes in the Baton Rouge area.

Catholic Charities says it got the news late Wednesday that the refugees will be here soon. The organization will be assisting in their arrival and acclimation.

Given what's been happening in Afghanistan, David Aguillard with Catholic Charities says the news came quickly.

"This is routine for us," he said. "We resettle evacuees and refugees, political asylees from around the globe. What's a little bit different this time is the compressed time frame. We expect this will take place within two to three weeks, which is why we're reaching out to the community for assistance."

The first refugees are expected to arrive in Louisiana at the end of September. Aguillard says there are 10-12 families, but their ages are unknown. Catholic Charities says it's looking for a little help from the community.

"We need volunteers to show Afghans how to get around Baton Rouge, how to enroll in school, how to access medical services," Aguillard said.

The refugees will be given a limited benefit package for the first 90 days. It will help cover their first three month's rent. In that time, they'll be learning the language, culture, getting a job, and get settled in Baton Rouge. Aguillard says Catholic Charities could be involved with helping the refugees for up to eight months.

"They're legal, documented. They've had safety clearances. They've had extensive medical screenings and received their vaccinations, including COVID," he said.

Catholic Charities says it's looking for furniture and other donations as they find homes for the 49 refugees. For more information on how to donate, go to the organization's website.

Permalink| Comments

FEMA personnel available at Goodwood Library starting this week https://www.wbrz.com/news/fema-personnel-available-at-goodwood-library-starting-this-week/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/fema-personnel-available-at-goodwood-library-starting-this-week/ On Your Side Wed, 15 Sep 2021 5:22:28 PM Brittany Weiss FEMA personnel available at Goodwood Library starting this week

BATON ROUGE - The threat from Nicholas is moving out of town and the focus is returning to the recovery from Hurricane Ida. FEMA says it's asking people who need help to sign up.

So far, FEMA says it has dispersed $342 million to survivors, that's about 300,000 households. FEMA says it's heard from a lot of people in Livingston and Ascension Parishes seeking grant money for food, water, fuel, prescriptions, emergency home repairs, and temporary housing.

"We are on a case-by-case basis giving people money to stay in hotels," Nathan Custer said.

In the Baton Rouge area, hotels have been full of linemen, Army Corps, and others helping recovery from Ida. FEMA has a list of available locations from Tennessee to New Mexico and Georgia.

"Some of the people have had to go out of state," Custer said. "We've had talks with people in Houston, Dallas, Little Rock, Jackson."

Everyone who applies for assistance will receive a letter, either online at disasterassistance.gov or through the mail. It will let the survivor know about FEMA's decision. If it's a no-decision, it doesn't mean you have been turned down. It could mean you told FEMA you're covered by insurance, or you're missing information. FEMA says do not let it discourage you.

Starting Thursday in Baton Rouge, survivors who have questions can visit the Mobile Registration Intake Center (MRIC) at the Main Library on Goodwood Blvd.

"This is where people can go in and register with FEMA if they haven't done so, or get their questions answered," Custer said.

The MRIC will be open every day starting Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, until Sept. 29. It will provide an opportunity for people to speak with someone from FEMA face-to-face.

Permalink| Comments

Entergy, DEMCO working through Nicholas to restore power outages from Ida https://www.wbrz.com/news/entergy-demco-working-through-nicholas-to-restore-power-outages-from-ida/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/entergy-demco-working-through-nicholas-to-restore-power-outages-from-ida/ On Your Side Tue, 14 Sep 2021 5:24:58 PM Brittany Weiss Entergy, DEMCO working through Nicholas to restore power outages from Ida

DENHAM SPRINGS - It's day 16 for thousands of people still without power following Hurricane Ida. With Tropical Storm Nicholas in the mix, there's concern over what that means for people still waiting in the dark.

The numbers on the outage maps continue to improve as crews work to restore power in south Louisiana.

Monday, 2 On Your Side reported on the Oak Ridge neighborhood of Denham Springs, where people have posted a sign at the front of the subdivision. Karla Davis says it's to alert DEMCO of the continued outage.

"We've just been patiently waiting, but the patience has worn thin," Davis said.

About 40 homeowners there have been waiting for power to be restored. Now, crews are tasked with working through nasty weather as Tropical Storm Nicholas comes ashore.

"Raincoats and all, boots and all filling up with water, but they are still working on that restoration of Hurricane Ida's impact," DEMCO's David Latona said.

Tuesday evening, DEMCO is reporting that 95 percent of its system is energized. At the peak of the outages, 95 percent of its members were without power. Most of those who still are without power are in Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa Parishes. The numbers continue to change as work continues.

"We're going to work until the last members are on," Latona said. "We're going to give every effort to every single member, and there are areas that are more devastated than others."

Entergy is reporting about 82,000 customers remain without power Tuesday evening. Both companies say they are unfortunately experienced in responding to back-to-back weather events.

"Our workforce is certainly used to working back-to-back storms, and we're going to continue working to restore power in south Louisiana, and that will not hinder our ability to support customers in other portions of the state," David Freese with Entergy said.

So far, Entergy is not reporting significant outages from Nicholas but says the storm is still headed this way. Customers should remain vigilant and storm-ready.

Permalink| Comments

People hope yard signs will alert power crews to outages https://www.wbrz.com/news/people-hope-yard-signs-will-alert-power-crews-to-outages/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/people-hope-yard-signs-will-alert-power-crews-to-outages/ On Your Side Mon, 13 Sep 2021 5:36:30 PM Brittany Weiss People hope yard signs will alert power crews to outages

PINE GROVE - Some people are so tired of being in the dark after Hurricane Ida, they've put up signs alerting linemen or power companies about their prolonged outages.

Lori Jones lives off of Highway 16 in Pine Grove. She says everyone around her got power back on Friday and she's the only one still in the dark.

"As always, I'm completely ignored because they don't see my house from Highway 16," Jones said. "They never forget to send the bill, though."

She strung a sheet in front of her property with blue spray paint. The message is for DEMCO.

"Sixteen years of just constantly having to let them know that when other people's power has been restored mine has not," Jones said.

She said she's had multiple conversations with DEMCO about the issue but there has yet to be a solution.

"The resolution I would like would be just some way to not be forgotten each time power is being restored," she said.

Another homeowner in Denham Springs says her neighborhood has also posted signs. Karla Davis lives in Oak Ridge and says all 40-plus homes in the neighborhood have been in the dark since Hurricane Ida.

"We've just been patiently waiting, but the patience has worn thin," Davis said.

She tells 2 On Your Side that trees remain down throughout the neighborhood and some are resting on power lines. Neighbors are doing all they can to alert linemen passing by, posting large painted signs at the front of the street that alert DEMCO of their outage. Davis hopes they help.

"Two weeks is a long time with no power," Davis said. "I've called DEMCO, I've called several times."

On Monday evening, DEMCO was reporting about 8,700 outages. The majority are in Livingston Parish and St. Helena. DEMCO says Denham Springs has an estimated restoration on or before Sept. 18.

Power crews are already in storm mode and looking ahead to the next storm, with the possibility of damage from Tropical Storm Nicholas. DEMCO says infrastructure for logistics is in place, and supply chains are providing for the outages cause by Hurricane Ida. "When a storm follows an incident like Hurricane Ida, we are first focused on the safety of the men we are hosting, then on the same process outlined in our emergency response plan to begin the assessment phase pushing into restoration."

David Freese with Entergy says it's also prepared for whatever comes to Louisiana.

"Our workforce is certainly used to working back to back storms," Freese said. "We're going to continue restoring power in southeast Louisiana that will not hinder our ability to support customers in other portions of the state."

Permalink| Comments

Nearly two weeks into outages, Ascension Parish neighborhood feeling the heat https://www.wbrz.com/news/nearly-two-weeks-into-outages-ascension-parish-neighborhood-feeling-the-heat/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/nearly-two-weeks-into-outages-ascension-parish-neighborhood-feeling-the-heat/ On Your Side Fri, 10 Sep 2021 5:39:29 PM Brittany Weiss Nearly two weeks into outages, Ascension Parish neighborhood feeling the heat

DARROW - A break from the humidity Friday is helping some people still without power, but it won't be for long. Power is still a problem for many people who are living through day 12 without electricity since Hurricane Ida. They just want to know when their lights will turn back on.

There are about 200 homes in an Ascension Parish community that have gone 12 days without power. Resheta Smith tells 2 On Your Side she only thought it would be a few days, but now those days seem to never end.

Smith has been driving her family to Houston on the weekends for a little relief from the heat since hotels in the Baton Rouge area are full. They use a generator to power the fridge and a small window unit, but fuel has gotten expensive.

She says they've watched every neighborhood around them light up and wonder why it's taking so long for them.

"All the surrounding areas have lights and we don't," Smith said. "It's like this one little neighborhood we're still in the dark, right here in Hillaryville and Darrow."

Smith says it's been a struggle, especially for the kids.

"The kids are hot, aggravated, so am I," she said.

Another neighbor says there are people in the neighborhood on oxygen and have been having a tough time in the heat.

Smith says she's been calling Entergy trying to figure out when they'll get power back. Time estimates have come and gone.

"They gave me the seventh, they gave me the eighth, when I called yesterday they told me they just didn't have no information on when they would turn the lights on," she said.

Entergy told 2 On Your Side Friday morning the power would be back on by the end of the day, and that's still the goal. Friday afternoon Entergy brought power back to some of the area but found a more localized issue affecting about 70 homeowners, and one of them is Smith. Entergy says there's a pole down in the area and it's not a quick fix, but it's working to resolve the outage.

Permalink| Comments

'Basically left to die': Neighbors say woman died after spending more than a week without power https://www.wbrz.com/news/basically-left-to-die-neighbors-say-woman-died-after-spending-more-than-a-week-without-power/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/basically-left-to-die-neighbors-say-woman-died-after-spending-more-than-a-week-without-power/ On Your Side Thu, 9 Sep 2021 5:22:39 PM Brittany Weiss 'Basically left to die': Neighbors say woman died after spending more than a week without power

DENHAM SPRINGS - Some people are at their wits' end living through day 11 without electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Linemen continue to work to connect nearly 30,000 people in our area.

This week, 2 On Your Side has been getting emails from people about their power still being out. Some of them require electricity for medical reasons. One of them came from a woman on Tuesday asking for help. The email was forwarded to the power company, which acknowledged receipt and provided some state resources for help. But that help may have come a little too late.

Tina Barrington can't believe what's transpired in the last couple of days. Her friend and neighbor died Wednesday in the heat and the dark.

"They were basically left to die," she said.

Barrington says her neighbor, Gayle, recently had open heart surgery and was on dialysis.

"She just wasn't doing real well to begin with, having no power sort of made it harder," Barrington said.

The Oak Place Subdivision in Denham Springs went 11 days without power. While Barrington says she's blessed with a generator, others aren't so lucky.

"It's heartbreaking. They get power to half of the neighborhood and they just left. They just left, forgot half the neighborhood," she said.

Thursday was the first time in a week she's seen power crews in the area. A tree fell on some lines during the storm, but neighbors tell 2 On Your Side that tree was removed Tuesday.

Barrington says she's been calling DEMCO every day trying to get someone to come out to Oak Place.

"It had been reported numerous times, they kept telling us it had not been reported," she said. "Someone dropped the ball."

Restoration efforts in her neighborhood were too late for her friend. Barrington says her neighbor didn't want to leave the house because she was afraid of getting COVID-19. Barrington and other neighbors checked on her daily. They report that on Tuesday things started going downhill fast when Gayle repeatedly passed out.

"She was scared, she was upset, she said she was tired," Barrington said. "She didn't know how much longer she could do it."

Wednesday, her neighbor said goodbye.

Around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, power was restored to Oak Place Subdivision. Barrington says it was too little, too late.

DEMCO says the vast majority of members in Denham Springs will have power back on or before Saturday.

Permalink| Comments