WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ WBRZ On Your Side On Your Side en-us Copyright 2022, WBRZ. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Sat, 28 May 2022 HH:05:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ 144 25 Teachers denied $1,200 stipend for taking maternity leave https://www.wbrz.com/news/teachers-denied-1-200-stipend-for-taking-maternity-leave/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/teachers-denied-1-200-stipend-for-taking-maternity-leave/ On Your Side Thu, 26 May 2022 12:50:29 PM Brittany Weiss Teachers denied $1,200 stipend for taking maternity leave

BATON ROUGE - Some teachers who went on maternity leave during the 2021-2022 school year missed out on a $1,200 stipend approved by East Baton Rouge Parish School System. One of those teachers, who does not want to be identified, reached out to 2 On Your Side to bring awareness.

School is out for summer in East Baton Rouge Parish and educators are thankful to have some extra money in their pockets. The board approved a $1,200 stipend for Certified Staff and $600 for all other district staff. It was processed for direct deposit on April 21, 2022. When this teacher found out about the stipend, she checked her bank account but didn't find the deposit.

"I immediately had questions," she said.

To qualify for that stipend, the board-approved eligibility requirements say that you must be an active full-time employee that has not missed more than 20 workdays during the school year. Employees on leave without pay or in a pending status will not be eligible for the stipend. Approved COVID-19 leave days do not count against the stipend eligibility, but apparently, maternity leave does.

"I found out that it was because I was on maternity leave that I did not receive that stipend," she said.

Since she took eight weeks, or 40 days using accumulated sick time she earned over her working years in the district, she's ineligible. The information is not sitting well with her.

"It makes me feel underappreciated, undervalued, and frustrated," she said. "Speaking as a woman, this wouldn't happen to a man in my position."

Caring for her child isn't the only thing she did while on maternity leave.

"I also interacted with parents and I interacted with coworkers, and before I could leave I wrote eight weeks of lesson plans for the sub in my class to take over my classroom flawlessly and smoothly so there were no disruptions for the students," she said.

Now, this teacher is speaking up for her colleagues.

"To know that our district doesn't stand behind us is disheartening," she said.

In EBRPSS, about 80% of the certified staff is female, and maternity leave is unpaid. According to the district's policy, an employee who becomes pregnant is eligible for maternity leave and can either choose maternity leave or use current and accumulated sick leave.

She is not the only teacher who gave birth and took maternity leave this past school year and says others in the district have reached out to her with similar concerns. The teacher says she emailed board members and the superintendent. She didn't receive a response from Dr. Sito Narcisse until her third try and then it was referred to general counsel and Human Resources.

WBRZ started asking questions regarding the stipend on May 17 and those questions were not answered.

Permalink| Comments

Storage building cleans up after 2 On Your Side report, parish makes repairs https://www.wbrz.com/news/storage-building-cleans-up-after-2-on-your-side-report-parish-makes-repairs/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/storage-building-cleans-up-after-2-on-your-side-report-parish-makes-repairs/ On Your Side Mon, 23 May 2022 11:45:43 AM Brittany Weiss Storage building cleans up after 2 On Your Side report, parish makes repairs

DENHAM SPRINGS - Property in rough shape around a storage building has been addressed following a 2 On Your Side report from April. 

The weeds and shrub overgrowth has been removed at the from of Wolf Creek Place along LA-16 in Denham Springs. Last month, 2 On Your Side reported that they were so high drivers had trouble navigating a right-hand turn.

The unmanned storage facility near the front of the neighborhood changed ownership recently and now it's called Square Space Storage. Caleb Wells lives in the neighborhood behind the storage buildings and contacted WBRZ for help.

"It's hard to see because you have overgrown shrubs on both sides, the whole place looks bad," he said.

The parish also did some work after a big hole opened up between the road and one of the storage buildings. It was so big a small vehicle could fit inside. The parish was there making repairs a week after the story aired and it's all fixed now.

Permalink| Comments

Dirt pile cleared from cemetery, headstones found after 2 On Your Side report https://www.wbrz.com/news/dirt-pile-cleared-from-cemetery-headstones-found-after-2-on-your-side-report/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/dirt-pile-cleared-from-cemetery-headstones-found-after-2-on-your-side-report/ On Your Side Fri, 20 May 2022 2:35:02 PM Brittany Weiss Dirt pile cleared from cemetery, headstones found after 2 On Your Side report

WALKER - A large pile of dirt that was dumped on graves has been removed. Several people responded after Wednesday night's 2 On Your Side story offering to help.

Kelly Trahan with Total Dirt Solutions LLC volunteered his time to scoop and haul off the dirt at Vickers Cemetery in Walker on Thursday and Friday. The mound of dirt, left over from digging graves, is now a smooth surface.

Elaine Watts contacted 2 On Your Side about the dirt pile after her calls for help didn't produce results.

"I cannot believe it's being done today," Watts said.

She has family buried at the cemetery. Earlier this week, she told 2 On Your Side that the dirt had been in the middle of the cemetery since 2020 and it was piled on top of her brother's headstone.

"I tried to look around and see if I could find it, the headstone, but I couldn't," she said.

It was nowhere to be found. Friday, that headstone and another were found once again.

Vickers Cemetery is maintained with the help of donations and is run by volunteers. Some of them were at the cemetery Friday as the work was underway. Lewis Sibley says he's been trying to find someone to clear the dirt for two years, but—because of liability concerns—no one has agreed to the job.

After the story aired on Wednesday, Sibley says he got a phone call from Total Dirt Solutions wanting to help. The work was completed before this weekend's rain.

Now that her brother's headstone is back in place, Watts says she can visit and not have to worry about where her loved one is buried.

Sibley says it's changing the cemetery burial rules and that from now on, dirt dug from graves will not be allowed to be left behind.

Permalink| Comments

Mound of dirt covering grave, help needed to dig out https://www.wbrz.com/news/mound-of-dirt-covering-grave-help-needed-to-dig-out/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/mound-of-dirt-covering-grave-help-needed-to-dig-out/ On Your Side Wed, 18 May 2022 1:01:02 PM Brittany Weiss Mound of dirt covering grave, help needed to dig out

WALKER - There's a large mound of dirt in the middle of a cemetery in Livingston Parish and it's sitting on top of a grave.

Elaine Watts contacted 2 On Your Side after she says that pile of dirt has been there for a year and a half. Her loved ones are buried in Vickers Cemetery in Walker and she says the pile of dirt is on top of her brother's grave.

"I cannot find the headstone," she said.

The dirt pile has tall weeds and trees growing out of it. Watts can't believe it's in a cemetery and thinks it's been long enough. She contacted the cemetery caretakers when she first saw the issue in 2020. Then, she was told it would be moved when the pile dried.

"There's no reason for it, no reason whatsoever," Watts said.

The cemetery caretakers agree. Vickers Cemetery is maintained with the help of donations and the people in charge are volunteers. Lewis Sibley is one of those volunteers and told 2 On Your Side that the leftover dirt is from digging graves.

Sibley says he has tried to hire someone to move the mound of dirt but the crew is concerned about the liability of ruining a grave site. He agrees that the dirt needs to be moved and is asking for help.

Money isn't the issue, it's finding someone to accept the job and get it done.

Permalink| Comments

Neighborhood complains about spotty utility service https://www.wbrz.com/news/neighborhood-complains-about-spotty-utility-service/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/neighborhood-complains-about-spotty-utility-service/ On Your Side Thu, 19 May 2022 1:20:15 PM Brittany Weiss Neighborhood complains about spotty utility service

BATON ROUGE - A neighborhood is having trouble with a utility company and say their COX Internet, cable and phone services are going in and out.

A couple of people living in Bluebonnet Highlands reached out to 2 On Your Side after they say they haven't been able to get answers. Al Troy says it's been happening for the last two and a half months.

"It goes in and out all the time," he said. "I was on the phone with you and we became disconnected."

Troy says he's done the old unplug and restart deal too many times. A serviceman came out to his home recently and told him the signal coming to his home was operating at 20%. It hasn't been fixed and he's since found out that he's not alone.

His neighbors have been talking on the Nextdoor app.

"Some of them are working at home and it's a disaster for them," Troy said.

They say they're frustrated because they haven't received any updates from COX.

"I have no contact initiated by them as to what's going on here," he said. "You know, we're all stuck with no option with this."

COX is the only utility provider for this neighborhood. AT&T crews are currently laying fiber optic cable.

Troy called COX to complain and his account was credited. Others in the neighborhood have done the same thing.

COX says it's working in the area on a couple of projects. One of them is complete, another involves equipment replacement and is scheduled for next week.

Permalink| Comments

State asks living man for death certificate https://www.wbrz.com/news/state-asks-living-man-for-death-certificate/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/state-asks-living-man-for-death-certificate/ On Your Side Mon, 16 May 2022 11:34:24 AM Brittany Weiss State asks living man for death certificate

BATON ROUGE - For tax purposes, a man was asked to send in his death certificate to the Louisiana Department of Revenue — but he's not dead!

Richard "Rooster" Shaffer contacted 2 On Your Side to help sort it out after he couldn't get in touch with the state.

"Something's messed up," Shaffer said.

Last week, Shaffer got a letter in the mail that gave him a good laugh.

"I called around and asked a bunch of my friends I had seen the day before and said, 'Did I look like I was alive when I had seen you guys yesterday?'"

Earlier this year, Shaffer filed his taxes with his CPA.

The letter said the Department of Revenue was reviewing his Louisiana income tax return and they needed additional paperwork. That additional paperwork was his death certificate.

Shaffer, clearly alive, tried to call the Department of Revenue but could not get through. The prompt said they had a high call volume and couldn't accept his call.

The Department of Revenue said it could not go into detail about what happened because it involves the taxpayer's interaction with the department, but says it has identified the error and the sequence of events that led to it and made the correction.

This was an isolated incident.

Permalink| Comments

Some tax filers missing refund if certain electronic option was selected https://www.wbrz.com/news/some-tax-filers-missing-refund-if-certain-electronic-option-was-selected/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/some-tax-filers-missing-refund-if-certain-electronic-option-was-selected/ On Your Side Fri, 13 May 2022 11:49:31 AM Brittany Weiss Some tax filers missing refund if certain electronic option was selected

BATON ROUGE - A woman is still waiting on her federal tax refund, months after filing. She has a warning about a popular way to file after finding out she's far from alone.

Kayla Redding filed her taxes online in January using TurboTax. She opted for electronic deposit and was expecting a nice refund.

Now in May, she says she has no idea what's happened to her money, other than it's being held with the Santa Barbara Tax Product Group.

The Santa Barbara Tax Product Group is the bank that processes your refund when you choose to have your TurboTax preparation fees deducted.

Redding says she learned her direct deposit return was rejected by her credit union, and she was supposed to get a paper check.

"They said that they've mailed it to me and I have yet to receive anything," said Redding.

She's spent a lot of time on the phone with Santa Barbara Tax Product Group. Three times she has been provided a check number and been told that her check is in the mail. It hasn't been delivered.

Redding is frustrated and annoyed.

"But most of all, I'm just baffled. I'm not understanding how this is happening," she said.

Redding isn't the only one who is baffled. There are hundreds of people sharing very similar stories online.

"Whether we are receiving the funds at a delayed time, not receiving them at all or people are receiving them but only receiving portions of what they were owed," she said.

It all boiled over for her this week, and she contacted 2 On Your Side and Brittany Weiss who contacted TurboTax.

Redding says she was contacted by a representative from the office of the president at TurboTax who is now looking into her missing refund.

Permalink| Comments

BR firefighter facing neighborhood drainage, road issues turns to 2 On Your Side for help https://www.wbrz.com/news/br-firefighter-facing-neighborhood-drainage-road-issues-turns-to-2-on-your-side-for-help/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/br-firefighter-facing-neighborhood-drainage-road-issues-turns-to-2-on-your-side-for-help/ On Your Side Thu, 12 May 2022 1:30:18 PM Brittany Weiss BR firefighter facing neighborhood drainage, road issues turns to 2 On Your Side for help

BATON ROUGE - A Baton Rouge firefighter has had trouble getting in touch with city leaders about his neighborhood's drainage, so he called Brittany Weiss with 2 On Your Side for help.

Cody Carmena lives on Highland Gardens Road off of Hooper Road. A dozen or so homes are there on land primarily owned by two families. Carmena says for the last few years, his family has been trying to get in touch with the city and their councilwoman about their concerns.

"Every time someone comes down here that doesn't know the road, they end up in the ditch," he said.

The street is very narrow and only allows for one lane of travel at a time. The drainage ditches lining the street swell with water that covers the road during storms. It's caused erosion under the asphalt and pieces of the road to fall off.

"A gas line is exposed from the washout," he said. "A water line is exposed from the washout. Water runs over the road every time it rains—it's a mess."

The street was taken over by the city-parish decades ago, and at one time, it was two lanes. Now, Carmena says you can barely drive one vehicle down there.

Wednesday, 2 On Your Side was there as a Republic Services truck backed down the street to collect woody waste. Other trucks have backed into the ditches and gotten stuck. There is no turn-around.

"If there's a new driver with Republic, they won't come down the road," Carmena said.

This Baton Rouge firefighter says it could get worse. Firetrucks and EMS trucks could have a difficult time navigating the road in an emergency.

"There's always the possibility of an emergency," he said.

After 2 On Your Side asking questions, the city-parish says it plans to visit Highland Gardens Road to take a look at the failing asphalt. Parish spokesperson Mark Armstrong says that in general, the road is in good condition.

"Of course, you showed me the edges of the road where they have fallen off, at least one spot in particular," he said. "Yes, we're aware of that now, and we're going out there to address it."

Carmena says his journey to bring attention to his concerns has been a long one. He says his family has contacted 311 and their councilwoman Chauna Banks multiple times.

"We have not been able to get in touch with her," he said.

Carmena is requesting a meeting to show the city what's going on. He hopes that the meeting happens before more damage is done.

The city-parish says it has received two work orders for drainage in this area and plans to address them by June.

Thursday, 2 On Your Side was able to contact Carmena's councilwoman to notify her of his concerns.

Permalink| Comments

Collapsed concrete has caused decade of concerns in Baton Rouge neighborhood https://www.wbrz.com/news/collapsed-concrete-has-caused-decade-of-concerns-in-baton-rouge-neighborhood/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/collapsed-concrete-has-caused-decade-of-concerns-in-baton-rouge-neighborhood/ On Your Side Wed, 11 May 2022 1:21:32 PM Brittany Weiss Collapsed concrete has caused decade of concerns in Baton Rouge neighborhood

UPDATE: Thursday, the City-Parish was quick to respond. Heavy machinery helped to dig out debris from Lively Bayou, unblocking the path of water flow. The parish still plans to address a collapsed concrete panel, but says the integrity of the structure is sound.

BATON ROUGE - Some residents living in Sherwood Forest are expressing concern over a large box culvert bridge that's showing signs of wear and tear.

Len Sedlin reached out to 2 On Your Side about his concerns over debris and crumbling concrete.

"There's chronic blockage of flow right here," Sedlin said.

In Sherwood Forest flowing under Goodwood Boulevard is Lively Bayou. Sedlin says it needs the parish's attention.

"It's totally destroyed by just lack of maintenance," he said.

He's not wrong, it is pretty much destroyed. The concrete has collapsed on one of the side panels next to the bridge. The dirt underneath has washed away. Sedlin worries it'll affect the integrity of the bridge. He's one of the thousands of people who has flooded in south Louisiana in the last few years and he doesn't want that to happen again.

"This whole bridge assembly is collapsing in time," he said. "We just didn't want to see this continue to happen through what I saw is a lack of coherent program on the part of the City-Parish to maintain its infrastructure."

Sedlin says he's been contacting the city-parish with his concerns for at least a decade. His records show that he has an open work order dated August 3, 2020. He says it's been addressed in the sense that the debris has been cleared a couple of times, but the concrete crumbling has not been.

Last week, 2 On Your Side asked him why he thought that might be.

"Well, they have no program in mind," he said. "I'm just a citizen trying to protect not only my property but what's left of the neighborhood here."

As the months have gone by, Sedlin says there's even more work to do. He thinks it didn't have to be this way if the parish had answered his work order in the first place.

"Had there been consistent preventative maintenance, which is normal in the industry, the problem could have been abated a long time ago."

The City-Parish says the vegetation obstruction, at this point, is minor. It will be cleared away as soon as possible. This boxed culvert is a major outfall for the neighborhood and is checked and maintained regularly, particularly before large storm events.

The parish also says it has looked into Sedlin's concerns about the crumbling concrete and confirmed that the bayou bank integrity is still in tact and is stable. It may be adding additional stone to prevent further erosion, which has been implemented in other areas of the parish.

Permalink| Comments

Maid-for-hire cleans out wallets, leaves customers with a mess https://www.wbrz.com/news/maid-for-hire-cleans-out-wallets-leaves-customers-with-a-mess/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/maid-for-hire-cleans-out-wallets-leaves-customers-with-a-mess/ On Your Side Tue, 10 May 2022 3:39:14 PM Brittany Weiss Maid-for-hire cleans out wallets, leaves customers with a mess

DENHAM SPRINGS - A handful of people have contacted 2 On Your Side about a scam that has targeted neighborhoods in Livingston and East Baton Rouge Parishes. They say a woman has been going door-to-door selling cleaning services.

Their stories all have similarities, and now they're sharing their experiences to warn others.

Stacey McAllister and Meagan Dale both live in Lakes of North Park in Denham Springs. They say a woman knocked on their door last fall offering her cleaning services and was selling packages to clean homes once or multiple times a month.

After paying for those services, they found that what was sold wasn't what they got.

"I don't know if it started out as a scam or not but it definitely got there," McAllister said.

At first, McAllister said she was happy with the cleaning Brooke Sanders did at her home, but it didn't last. McAllister said Sanders started giving excuses about why she couldn't make it to the job.

"Meeting her kids, broke her ankle," she said. "Then she stopped answering my calls and texts."

McAllister paid almost $400 for services that weren't completed.

Dale says she paid Sanders to clean her house twice after she learned that she was having a hard time and in need of clients. She did not pay for a cleaning package.

"I wasn't comfortable with that, but I went ahead and paid her for one more visit, and on that visit, she just came and threw everything in trash bags and left," Dale said. "I didn't hear from her again except for her to ask for more money before she had cleaned."

Dale says she paid her $275.

Word about her work—or lack thereof—quickly spread. It had been Facebook chatter for nearly a year. McAllister first posted something in her neighborhood group.

"When I saw how many people were responding, I realized it was a bigger deal than I thought," she said.

People were chiming in about Sanders' cleaning business, which has changed names several times.

"'Walk by Faith Cleaning,' that's the name she used in our neighborhood," Dale said. "Come to find out she had five other business names she used in other neighborhoods."

Other business names include JB's Cleaning, B&K Cleaning Co., and Absolute Home and Maintenance. Each time the business name changed, so did the email address and the phone number.

People paid Sanders through Venmo and CashApp, and the money quickly added up. Sanders also sometimes goes by Brooke Shifflett.

Both McAllister and Dale were interested in learning how she charged everyone different amounts.

"She asked every single one of us for money in advance," said Dale.

A woman living in the Central neighborhood North Woods says she hired Sanders for $450. She says she came to clean once, and after that, made up excuses and didn't return.

Another person living in Oak Hills of Denham Springs says she paid Sanders for six months of cleaning upfront for bi-monthly cleanings. After coming to clean twice, she didn't return. That same person says she felt bad for her and gave her hundreds of dollars worth of toys for her kids for Christmas.

Last week, 2 On Your Side reached out to Sanders by phone. When asked if she was still offering cleaning services, she said no.

Brittany Weiss asked her why she was no longer cleaning and the phone disconnected.

Several people have filed police reports. The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office says it's investigating.


Permalink| Comments

Sprinklers not working properly at closed plant, causing red dust to fly https://www.wbrz.com/news/sprinklers-not-working-properly-at-closed-plant-causing-red-dust-to-fly/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/sprinklers-not-working-properly-at-closed-plant-causing-red-dust-to-fly/ On Your Side Thu, 5 May 2022 12:01:18 PM Brittany Weiss Sprinklers not working properly at closed plant, causing red dust to fly

GONZALES - People living in Ascension Parish have had to deal with red dust flying in the air when the wind picks up. It turns out the company responsible for maintaining the area is in violation.

As residents continue to move into and build in Pelican Crossing in Gonzales, they're surprised to find that their neighbor isn't being very neighborly. After 2 On Your Side started looking into it, the Department of Environmental Quality found that to be the case, too.

Shelita Bailey moved to Pelican Crossing a couple of years ago. She's seen the red dust more than once.

"It really just started with a big cloud in the neighborhood," she said.

That big cloud was red dust is being kicked up into the air by wind. It's coming from a closed aluminum plant next door.

What's left of the LAlumina Burnside Refinery are bauxite mud ponds — non-hazardous waste generated during the processing of aluminum. When the plant closed down, they had a permit to uphold, which included keeping that red dust wet with sprinklers so it doesn't blow around the parish.

Some residents contacted 2 On Your Side last month after they noticed all that red dust landing on their properties.

"I know they say they have sprinkler systems, and I know they have water cannons," said Pelican Crossing resident Jodie Crandall. "Our patio overlooks all of that, and we see what's not running, what's not happening. We don't see them ever running now."

After multiple complaints and questions from 2 On Your Side, DEQ investigated and found that there are violations that need addressing. DEQ said the LAlumina investigated the conditions of the site and found that some of the existing sprinklers are not working properly and need to be repaired. There is also a need for additional sprinklers to prevent the red dust from blowing.

The violations aren't exactly new. According to the state's database, DEQ has known about the sprinkler system issues for at least a year. The red dust complaints go back to 2017.

"We're hopeful that it will clear up, and we don't have to continue going through this over and over again," said Bailey.

Brittany Weiss contacted the LAlumina Burnside Refinery plant superintendent, Aaron Templet. He told 2 On Your Side in March that the red mud area has a sprinkler system that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In an email, Templet said the sprinkler system helps keep the area wet to help prevent that dusting, according to the permit with DEQ. Templet said Thursday that they're working with DEQ and getting quotes for more sprinklers.

If the sprinkler issues are not cleared up, DEQ says fines could be coming. The state is currently reviewing the company's proposal for the sprinklers and hopes to have it completed within the next two to three weeks.

Permalink| Comments

Garbage bill adds new charge, unbeknownst to customer https://www.wbrz.com/news/garbage-bill-adds-new-charge-unbeknownst-to-customer/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/garbage-bill-adds-new-charge-unbeknownst-to-customer/ On Your Side Mon, 2 May 2022 3:38:21 PM Brittany Weiss Garbage bill adds new charge, unbeknownst to customer

GEISMAR - A woman says her garbage collection service pulled a fast one on her, and she's concerned that if it happened to her that it might have happened to others.

Megan Sutton moved to Lakes at Dutchtown in Geismar in 2014. She signed up for garbage collection with Waste Pro and didn't think anything of it until 2019, when her bill started to increase.

"They automatically started charging us for a service that was not authorized by us or any customer for that matter," Sutton said.

Waste Pro started charging for recycling in 2019. The service had previously been lumped into the garbage collection costs. The new charge was labeled as a "residential monthly service - 18-gallon toter RC."

Waste Pro billed Sutton every three months. She says that at first, the new charges weren't anything to be concerned about. They quickly increased and before long she was being charged $195 for what she thought was just garbage collection.

"I've never authorized them to charge me for recycling because I've never recycled," she said.

Waste Pro says recycling was initially a service provided at no charge, but due to inflation, a $9 monthly fee was added to bills starting in 2019. Those prices have steadily increased since then and could increase more as processing and disposal fees change. Waste Pro says the "RC" listed on the bill is standard and refers to recycling. The company says that letters regarding price increases were sent to customers.

"They labeled it as an 18-gallon toter, yet it was recycling, yet you still have to provide your own container for it," she said.

Sutton, who has all of her Waste Pro bills on file, says she never received a letter notifying her of the separate charge for recycling. The whole ordeal has caused her to change providers.

Waste Pro customers can to opt-out of recycling service if they wish by calling the office at 504-392-4619 or emailing LAcustomerservice@wasteprousa.com.


Permalink| Comments

Van finally fixed after two years, call to 2 On Your Side https://www.wbrz.com/news/van-finally-fixed-after-two-years-call-to-2-on-your-side/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/van-finally-fixed-after-two-years-call-to-2-on-your-side/ On Your Side Fri, 29 Apr 2022 2:26:02 PM Brittany Weiss Van finally fixed after two years, call to 2 On Your Side

BATON ROUGE - A family got their van back after it had been at the repair shop for two years. Walker Estes contacted 2 On Your Side when all else failed. 

Estes, who is Deaf, said through an interpreter that after paying the repair bill in full in 2020, the van still didn't work. Months went by, then a few more, then a couple of years.

"It's been back and forth," he said. "Parts available, parts not available, COVID, lack of workers, and then they stopped answering my phone calls," Estes said.

Other family members started calling the business for updates, but those calls went unanswered too. When 2 On Your Side met with Estes two weeks ago, he was asking for his van back and a refund.

"They've told me it'll be ready in a week, it'll be ready in a week, I've shown up to the business and the doors are locked," he said.

The van belongs to his wife, Berta. She mainly used the van to travel to and from work and to run errands. Friday, she was finally able to drive it again after two years.

When she walked out of the shop Friday with the paperwork and key, she cranked the engine and celebrated!

Aamco Transmissions corporate office had been in touch with 2 On Your Side about the repairs. The owner of the business told Brittany Weiss two weeks ago that the parts were ordered. Those parts came in this week, and the repairs were completed Thursday.

"It's been a long two years and I want to thank you and your team for making this a successful, happy event," Estes said.

Once the transmission was installed, the vehicle was towed to a local Nissan dealer for programming to ensure compliance with Nissan's warranty terms and conditions.

Permalink| Comments

Blight, lot cleared hours after 2 On Your Side story airs https://www.wbrz.com/news/blight-lot-cleared-hours-after-2-on-your-side-story-airs/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/blight-lot-cleared-hours-after-2-on-your-side-story-airs/ On Your Side Wed, 27 Apr 2022 2:22:38 PM Brittany Weiss Blight, lot cleared hours after 2 On Your Side story airs

BATON ROUGE - Less than 24 hours after a 2 On Your Side story aired about a blighted property, the City-Parish cleans it up. The property is on River Road near West Roosevelt Street and has been a nuisance to neighbor Jackie Williams for the last seven years.

"It's really a blessing that it's finally getting done," said Williams.

The lot is owned by Alexander Twine, who moved out of the house years ago. Since, it's become overgrown with trees, weeds, and grass, and become a dumping ground for all sorts of items.

Tired of looking at it and smelling it, Williams contacted 2 On Your Side. The City-Parish was out at the property working bright and early Wednesday. They brought a large dump truck and heavy machinery to do the work.

"I was praising the Lord and thanking him for finally answering my prayers after seven years," she said.

The City-Parish has been out to the property before to clean up the blight, but not to this extent. The property owner, Twine, has been taken to blight court a few times. This last time he was given a deadline to clean up and time ran out. The clean-up bill will be put on Twine's property taxes at the end of the year.

The house on the lot will be inspected to determine if any further action needs to be taken.

Permalink| Comments

Neighbor upset over blight, contacts 2 On Your Side for clean sweep https://www.wbrz.com/news/neighbor-upset-over-blight-contacts-2-on-your-side-for-clean-sweep/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/neighbor-upset-over-blight-contacts-2-on-your-side-for-clean-sweep/ On Your Side Tue, 26 Apr 2022 3:45:06 PM Brittany Weiss Neighbor upset over blight, contacts 2 On Your Side for clean sweep

BATON ROUGE - A blighted property on River Road near West Roosevelt Street has become a dumping ground and a place for people to rummage through junk.

Jackie Williams lives next door and says she has been in touch with the City-Parish about the condition of the lot since 2015. She says it's time something is done to clean it up permanently.

The lot is overgrown with trees, weeds, and tall grass. There's a rusted car, a riding lawnmower, garbage cans, tires, an old air conditioning unit, and dog cage among the items around the property.

Williams says the property owner moved out in 2015 and doesn't come back much. She says the house on the property hasn't been touched in all that time.

"You cannot live in there, no," said Williams. "It's filthy."

Filthy might be an understatement. For the last seven years, Williams has been fighting the blight and has contacted the City-Parish at least 200 times.

The property owner, Alexander Twine, has been taken to blight court over the mess. Williams says after a court date, her neighbor cuts the grass or moves around some items on the lot to keep up, then she doesn't see him.

Recently someone stole a car and other items off the lot.

"People were breaking into the house," said Williams.

Twine told 2 On Your Side's Brittany Weiss on Tuesday that he does not intend to sell the property. He says he hasn't had a problem with the lot until recently and needs help to clean it up.

"I've been trying to clean it up," he said.

Williams says differently.

"It's just a dumping ground," she said.

The City-Parish has been out to the lot several times to clean it up. They're trying to see if it's condemnable.

Tuesday, a maintenance crew visited the property to schedule another clean up. The city says the house is not secure and plan to reach out to the property owner again about keeping it secure. The city plans to clean up the lot this week.

Permalink| Comments

Storage building changes ownership, looks abandoned at front of neighborhood https://www.wbrz.com/news/storage-building-changes-ownership-looks-abandoned-at-front-of-neighborhood/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/storage-building-changes-ownership-looks-abandoned-at-front-of-neighborhood/ On Your Side Mon, 25 Apr 2022 3:51:10 PM Brittany Weiss Storage building changes ownership, looks abandoned at front of neighborhood

DENHAM SPRINGS - A man who lives near a storage building says the new owners aren't being very good neighbors. Caleb Wells says reached out to 2 On Your Side about the overgrowth situation at the front of his neighborhood.

"It used to be well-kept, they would keep it up, the grass was always cut and everything was taken care of," said Wells.

At the front of Wolf Creek Place along LA-16 in Denham Springs, the weeds are so high that drivers have trouble navigating a right-hand turn.

"It's hard to see because you have overgrown shrubs on both sides—the whole place looks bad," he said.

There's an unmanned storage facility near the front of his neighborhood. Ownership recently changed hands and it's now called Square Space Storage. Wells says the property around it is a mess.

"I think it's going to affect property values negatively," he said.

It's not much better behind the storage buildings. There are a lot of overgrown plants, weeds, and shrubs, but that's not the only thing Wells is unhappy with.

Between the street and one of the storage buildings is a large hole. The hole has been growing and growing and no one has been out to fix the problem. Monday, 2 On Your Side made some calls to see who is responsible for the hole and property maintenance.

Livingston Parish says it will be addressing the hole as soon as possible and has also reached out to the storage owner to make sure they are on an appropriate maintenance schedule.

Permalink| Comments

Some hotels becoming hotbeds for crime in Baton Rouge https://www.wbrz.com/news/some-hotels-becoming-hotbeds-for-crime-in-baton-rouge/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/some-hotels-becoming-hotbeds-for-crime-in-baton-rouge/ On Your Side Thu, 21 Apr 2022 2:55:47 PM Brittany Weiss Some hotels becoming hotbeds for crime in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE - After a woman was shot to death at the OYO Hotel near I-12 Thursday morning, city leaders are speaking out about an uptick in crime in the area.

OYO Hotels are popping up all over the place. There are three in East Baton Rouge Parish. Those locations are attracting crime at an alarming rate, prompting the district attorney and the city-parish to take a closer look.

"When we talk to the officers, and the officers say, 'I've been here 400 times.' We then go back and say, 'let's take a look at it,'" EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore said.

The stats are eye-opening. In 2021, BRPD was dispatched to the OYO Hotel on Gwenadele Avenue 409 times. They responded to everything from 911 hang-ups, to overdoses, suspicious people and shootings. Last year, there were 85 EMS calls, the highest number of at any hotel in the parish.

This year, the numbers continue to grow. In the first quarter, BRPD has already been called to that hotel 114 times.

"With the police department being shorthanded, that even causes more problems," Moore said.

The DA is looking into the data to determine whether there are enough violations to serve a letter to OYO Hotel management. The letter would label that property as a nuisance. The idea is to work with the hotel to help them deter this bad behavior. If the problems are not addressed, the parish can bring them to court.

Janet Brooks recently stayed at an OYO Hotel in Baton Rouge. She says she stayed there for a quick rest but quickly discovered the hotel is a mess.

"We just wanted to get out of there," she said.

She snapped photos of cigarette burns, rusted hardware, missing locks and rodents. Brooks contacted 2 On Your Side after all the red flags she saw inside and in the parking lot.

"Yeah, there were people waiting for someone to come 'bring me my drugs or my girlfriend,'" she said.

Moore, the city-parish and BRPD met with businesses and churches around the hotels recently. They shared their concerns about the activity in the area.

"They were clearly worried that the spillover from the hotels and the people—that appear to have drug issues and are homeless—that are knocking on doors during the day, coming in."

They want the problem fixed. With many spring and summer events planned in Baton Rouge, more visitors are coming. Paul Arrigo with Visit Baton Rouge says it raises new concerns that bad incidents will overshadow the good.

"It's concerning to us because the security of our visitors and our locals alike, we've got to look out for," Arrigo said.

The process won't be easy. Moore says many people are living in these hotels, and they don't want to displace people or move the problems somewhere else.

"It's not only addressing the issue of the hotel, but the issue of that person," he said. "Can we get you help? And unfortunately, we found that people want help only when they're ready."

There are other hotels on the city's radar for being out of compliance. They're hoping to give these places a chance to do better.

Moore wants to sit down with these hotel owners and show them the data so they can see what's going on and contribute to the discussion. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome also plans to send a letter to chain operators to let them know they're having a problem with local operators.

This isn't the first time the city and district attorney have tried something like this. In 2020, a WBRZ 2 On Your Side investigation showed you how the city's using similar tactics to target problem apartments in Tigerland.

Permalink| Comments

Carjacking victim gets good news, towing bill taken care of https://www.wbrz.com/news/carjacking-victim-gets-good-news-towing-bill-taken-care-of/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/carjacking-victim-gets-good-news-towing-bill-taken-care-of/ On Your Side Wed, 20 Apr 2022 3:37:53 PM Brittany Weiss Carjacking victim gets good news, towing bill taken care of

BATON ROUGE - A bit of hope for a man who got carjacked and kidnapped. The thief crashed his car and ditched it before it was towed, and the victim got the bill.

WBRZ first shared this story a couple of weeks ago. The man, who does not want to be identified, was on the hook for a large towing and storage bill after his stolen car was found and impounded.

Late last year, he was mugged, threatened, hit in the face, carjacked, and kidnapped. The car vanished with the crook who crashed it. The car was found wrecked and it was towed to Larose Towing on January 4. From then until mid-March, the man had no idea where his vehicle was, until a bill arrived in the mail for about $1,800.

"That's just another bill I don't need in my life," he said.

After the story aired, 2 On Your Side was able to connect him with the right people who helped to get his car out of the tow yard.

"I am relieved," he said. "I don't have this bill over my head, I'm pretty much free of all the stress from that."

The storage bill ended up being about $2,600. With the help of Louisiana State Police, his car was released. He says the tow company left out some details.

"And I didn't have to pay anything," he said. "There was some type of paperwork that they didn't complete."

He won't have to worry about that bill and even though the car doesn't start, he got it back. Now he's hoping to move on and is saving up for a new car. In the meantime, he's riding his bike to and from work.

Some generous WBRZ viewers want to help, by putting money toward his future car purchase.

"Whoever that is, I thank them and I will definitely use it to look for a new car," he said.

He hopes this situation doesn't happen to anyone else.

Permalink| Comments

Tenant questions Perkins Rowe security measures following Sunday attack https://www.wbrz.com/news/tenant-questions-perkins-rowe-security-measures-following-sunday-attack/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/tenant-questions-perkins-rowe-security-measures-following-sunday-attack/ On Your Side Tue, 19 Apr 2022 3:35:54 PM Brittany Weiss Tenant questions Perkins Rowe security measures following Sunday attack

BATON ROUGE - A man in jail for randomly kidnapping a woman and assaulting her at Perkins Rowe has a checkered past going back decades.

Leon Curry is in jail, charged with sexual battery, kidnapping, and stealing a car after the crime spree at a shopping center Sunday.

Now there's fear among shoppers and residents at Perkins Rowe who say things could have been worse and more needs to be done to keep the area secure moving forward.

A Perkins Rowe tenant, who does not want to be identified, has been sharing his maintenance and security concerns with 2 On Your Side for the last couple of months. He says the area is supposed to be secure, but lately, it's not how he feels walking around at night.

"You've got retirees that live here, you've got young women that live by themselves that go to LSU, Southern," he said. "You've got shopping and then if you park in a garage that's covered, it's pretty dark. It doesn't feel as safe as it should."

Perkins Rowe is an area in Baton Rouge with a movie theater, restaurants, and shops. It attracts a lot of visitors and with all those people, this tenant thinks more should be done to protect the people living there and visiting. He questions whether or not there was a security guard at all at the movie theater parking garage the night the attack happened.

"You hardly ever see a security person and if you do, they're not very intimidating," he said.

While on the property Tuesday, 2 On Your Side saw a single security officer drive by on a golf cart three times. The tenant said he rarely sees security late at night. The green space within Perkins Rowe has a sign posted letting visitors know about a curfew in place.

"There's rules but they're not followed," he said.

The area has security cameras, lighting, and residential parking has parking gates. Lately, the tenant says there have been issues with lights being out and gates left open.

He says that one of the gates leading to a tenant parking garage has had an issue for the last four months. It was left open for weeks and now leaves a large gap at the bottom when closed.

It's those things that worry him.

"I was not impressed, but I wasn't concerned with security," he said. "Now I'm concerned."

He also says that the property management company, Property One, sends out "Red Flag" emails to alert residents about issues happening at the property. A "Red Flag" alert was not and has not been sent out following Sunday's incident.

Perkins Rowe is a Trademark Property. They tell WBRZ that it does not discuss specific security protocols to not compromise its overall security efforts. Perkins Rowe says it's always adjusting protocols to make sure everyone who visits the property feels safe and that the safety of its customers, residents, and retailers is its top priority.

Permalink| Comments

WATCH: neighborhood wreck sparks debate about speed bumps, speeders https://www.wbrz.com/news/watch-neighborhood-wreck-sparks-debate-about-speed-bumps-speeders/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/watch-neighborhood-wreck-sparks-debate-about-speed-bumps-speeders/ On Your Side Mon, 18 Apr 2022 3:49:54 PM Brittany Weiss WATCH: neighborhood wreck sparks debate about speed bumps, speeders

BATON ROUGE - Last Wednesday night, two cars collided in South Point subdivision in Denham Springs. It reignited a conversation one mom has about slowing people down in her neighborhood.

Heather Stafford moved into South Point about four years ago. She says over those years there have been several incidents involving speeders right outside her front door.

"It just doesn't seem like anybody cares to slow down," Stafford said.

The speed limit on her street is 20 mph. Stafford says it's primarily neighborhood traffic, but many people go above the speed limit. Last week was the first time she saw a wreck, but it was not the first incident.

"We had somebody hit the mailbox, that pole was taken out, our neighbor's truck has been hit."

Stafford's goal is to slow traffic down and get drivers to follow the speed limit. So far, she says her ideas have been met with resistance from the HOA. Stafford says the HOA is concerned speed bumps would cause drainage issues since rainwater drains to one side of the street.

"If we staggered the speed bumps it would help with drainage and wouldn't block it so much," she said.

Stafford says she's been chatting with some of her neighbors who are on board with the idea. She's working to spread the word.

Since South Point Drive is a parish road, anything that Stafford suggests would ultimately have to be discussed and approved by the parish council. After getting support from her neighborhood, the next step would be to get on the agenda.

"It's not impossible, we're just going to have to pull together and make this happen."

With two young children, Stafford is concerned about letting them play outside. The wreck happened right after they went to bed last week. She hopes that one day she'll be able to take a walk in the neighborhood with her family and not fear getting hit.

Permalink| Comments