Without a word of comment from President Kenny Matassa or his administration, not a syllable out of ten Parish Council members, a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) with Ascension Sewer, LLC was approved at Thursday’s meeting. The company is a self-styled “consortium” cobbled together by Bernhard Capital Partners which includes two engineering firms (GSA Consulting Engineers and Hartman Engineering) and the largest private sewer treatment company in the parish (and Louisiana) Ascension Wastewater Treatment.
“(F)or a period of two (2) years, the Company shall have the exclusive right to negotiate an agreement with the District to construct, manage, operate and maintain the System.”
A second CEA, this one a Construction and Operating Agreement, will include all the specifics (and they do mean ALL the specifics) not part of the agreement authorized on Thursday. Nothing so far bears the appearance of an arms’ length negotiation with Infrastructure Director William Daniel, on the job less than two years, leading the cheers. It was Daniel, if the minimal information leaked out can be trusted, who approached Bernhard Capital Partners in November to initiate the deal which would see Bernhard Capital Partners’ investing $225 million for Phase I (whatever that will include).
AWT is a necessary component because its 16,000 customers are a must to pay back that investment. AWT’s physical assets are set to become Ascension Consolidated Utilities District #2 property. Considering AWT “left us at the alter” the last time east bank sanitary sewer was attempted, it is a positive that Bernhard Capital Partners has to deal with its new partner…and not Ascension Parish where elected officialdom is putting an awful lot of faith in Bernhard Capital Partners and William Daniel.
Here’s hoping it’s not blind faith.