ASCENSION PARISH, La. (WAFB) - A measure that involves consolidating the Ascension Parish sewage system will be back on the table for a vote during an upcoming parish council meeting.
The measure was on the Nov. 21 agenda, but council members did not vote on the matter, rather asking for more time to review the proposal to ensure they were getting the best deal for residents. The vote was scheduled to go before the council Monday, Dec. 2, but was postponed yet again. A new date has not yet been set.
If the council decides to pass the measure, it would consolidate the parish sewage system to Ascension Sewer, llc.
"DEQ has already told us that you’re going to have to, we’re going to severely limit what you can discharge into those waterways because they’re impaired,” said outgoing parish councilman, Bill Dawson.
The new waste treatment system would eliminate the small, individual treatment facilities that are in the neighborhoods and replace them with a regional treatment facility that would dump treated water into the Mississippi River. Currently, sewage is being dumped into nearby bayous.
The plan comes with a price tag of $215 million. Under the proposal, the parish would be locked into a 30-year contract. The initial rate would be set at $57.90 per month. For the first 10 years, that rate would increase four percent each year, eventually reaching $82.41 per month. For the following 20 years, the rate will increase by 1% each year, but that depends on the costs of the project.
"If you have a cost overrun on a $220 million project of 20%, it's a significant number,” Dawson said.
The new plan the parish council will vote on Tuesday would lessen the risk for ratepayers and if the cost comes in under the proposed $215 million budget, rates can go down.
“This is no different than any regulated municipality around the country in terms of how rates are set and who bears the risks of construction and operating costs,” said Jeff Jenkens, who is heading up the proposed utility.
Not everyone will be affected by the rate increase; only customers currently with Ascension Sewage and in the Ascension Consolidated Utility District #2 would be affected.
Incoming Parish President Clint Cointment said he was worried those costs will ultimately fall back on the entire parish though. He also says he’s worried the council is not doing its due diligence before voting on the proposal.
“This starts out with a number that I don’t believe is a true number of the costs of the sewer proposal, but a low-end cost that can be adjusted at any time,” Cointment said. “Any time that they have cost overruns, delays, will this right-a-way acquisition be part of those delays? That has to be fully discussed.”