On December 16, 2013 representatives of Louisiana DEQ appeared before the Utilities Committee of Ascension’s Parish Council to deliver some big news; $60 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund was going to be made available for the parish to build a regional wastewater treatment system. The low-interest (.95%) loan is an integral piece to any plan for east bank sanitary sewer, including the proposed deal with Ascension Sewer, LLC on tomorrow’s Special Council Meeting agenda. Certain parish officials, all in the bag for Ascension Sewer and its owner, Bernhard Capital Partners (BCP), would have you believe the loan is in jeopardy if the deal doesn’t get done before year’s end.
In the words of the council’s most vociferous sewer sycophant, Utilities Chairman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee…
Satterlee and Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel, perpetually painting a pessimistic picture, continue to claim that the money will be unavailable unless the deal gets done ASAP. On several occasions they have recapped meetings with DEQ head, Dr. Chuck Brown, who is supposed to have issued that dire warning.
Of course, Dr. Brown has not found his way to Gonzales’ Courthouse Annex to deliver the threat in person. One would think, given the importance, he might have dropped President Kenny Matassa a line.
According to its official site, “Construction of a wastewater treatment plant, consolidation of existing private plants and connection and collection of two separate sewer collection systems” is at the top of DEQ’s Priority list. Once on the Priority List, the funding remains available from year-to-year. From DEQ’s website:
A new Priority List is prepared each fiscal year and included in the IUP. The Priority List includes a listing of all potential projects or segments of projects that have not yet been funded, and that have submitted the required pre-application documents. The Priority List is presented at a Public Hearing and is then submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency each year as part of the Intended Use Plan.
It is not necessary to re-apply each fiscal year. Once pre-application documents have been accepted, the project will remain on the Priority List until funded, as long as progress continues to be made toward funding. No project can be placed on the fundable portion of the Intended Use Plan unless it is also on the Priority List for that year.
Projects may be removed from the Priority List if any of these events occur:
- The project is funded through the CWSRF or receives funding from another source.
- The project is constructed, regardless of the funding source.
- There is no evidence of progress toward funding for a period of five years (project is assumed to be abandoned).
Given the super-secretive negotiations surrounding Ascension Sewer (the agreement to be voted upon tomorrow without being made publicly available) this council, especially Chairwoman Teri Casso, is not to be believed. Holding an unloaded gun to the parish’s head, it’s still pretty threatening.
No one is suggesting that east bank sanitary sewer is unimportant. Least of all Parish President-Elect Clint Cointment who urges deferral until he and six new council members can review the proposal and negotiate the best deal possible. The current version is far from it.
Why Tuesday’s shotgun wedding between the parish and Ascension Sewer since the parish is bound to exclusive negotiation with the conglomerate until May 2021? Such urgency is unnecessary and we are left to wonder what Casso, Satterlee, William Daniel and other council supporters have vested in the deal.