Almost seven months after Hurricane Katrina, the Nagin administration still dickers over details of a contract that would gradually rid the cityscape of these vehicular eyesores -- at a cost of $23 million over another six months.
Which makes it of more than passing interest to discover that the largest car crusher east of the Rockies, K&L Auto Crushers of Tyler, Texas, offered in October to do the job in 15 weeks and actually pay the city for the privilege of hauling the junk away. How much? How about $100 per flooded car. With an estimated 50,000 vehicles on the street at that time, the city would have netted $5 million, rather than shelling out four times that sum, as it plans to do now.
K&L's Dan Simpson said he first made his pitch five weeks after Katrina, on a piece of paper that he slipped to Mayor Ray Nagin at one of his boisterous post-flood town hall meetings. Simpson said he'd bring in between five and 10 mobile crushers. Working them six days a week at scattered sites around the city, K&L offered to crumple and haul the vehicles and handle the "remediation," or environmental disposal of gasoline, oil and other hazardous wastes and do all the paperwork.
So instead of making a deal that would have killed two birds with one stone, get rid of abandonded and flooded cars as well as netting a cool million to the cities depleted coffers, the Nagin administration is negotiationg deal to do the the same thing yet cost city coffers upwards of $23 million.
Their initial hesitency was warrented because the ownership of the autos is a legitimate concern. But lawyers made the administration aware of the law that allows the city to sieze abandoned automobiles. Yet the city seems oblivious to its ability to deal with this problem in a way that is fiscally responsible to its taxpayers.