Chairwoman Casso and other members carrying Bernhard’s wastewater

Chairwoman Teri Casso

Ascension citizens deserve a meaningful opportunity to be heard at the December 16 Special Meeting of the Parish Council to consider:

(4) Approval of Construction, Operation, and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement between ACUD #2 and Ascension Sewer, LLC

(5) Approval of Contribution and Conveyance Agreement – Act of Transfer – by and between Ascension Waste Water Treatment Inc. and ACUD #2

Apparently, and not surprisingly, that opportunity is being denied.

For the better part of two weeks a group led by Parish President-Elect Clint Cointment has suggested changes to the Construction, Operating and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement proposed between the parish and Ascension Sewer, LLC, the four-company consortium headed by Bernhard Capital Partners (BCP).  Early drafts included one dated November 6, revised after the Parish Council considered numerous criticisms yielding a second draft dated November 27.  That second draft was posted for all to see on the parish’s website, where it remains as of this writing.

There have been at least two more drafts wherein dozens of protections were added to avoid exorbitant monthly user fees and the imminent bankruptcy of Ascension Parish.  Those revisions were presented to BCP which seemed, early on at least, to be negotiating in good faith.  Parish President-Elect Clint Cointment was “cautiously optimistic and appreciative of Ascension Sewer’s willingness to keep talking” on December 3.  He led a working group which proposed numerous contractual amendments the day before, presenting those changes to a seemingly receptive BCP.

David Fleshman of Breazeale Sachse & Wilson was present to memorialize the many changes to the agreement.

Councilman-Elect Chase Melancon was more effusive in his optimism.

“Very encouraging, very encouraging.  As we’ve stressed before, no one is opposed to regional wastewater treatment for east bank Ascension and this particular company.  My first and only responsibility is to ensure the best possible deal for the people of St. Amant and all of Ascension Parish,” he would say.  “I am more confident than ever that we can join with Ascension Sewer in a true partnership to achieve that.”

When will these latest changes be made available for public inspection?  Will these latest changes, any of them, be incorporated into an official draft?  Were “countless hours and a few sleepless nights” devoted by Cointment and crew a waste of time an effort?

He sounded none too encouraged during an impromptu Q & A Thursday morning, though unwilling to offer a definitive statement other than…

“I have no control, not even input with respect to items included on the Council’s agenda,” indicating a formal statement would be made before the week is out.

Chairwoman Teri Casso controls the agenda and, we’ve been led to believe, which version of the agreement will be considered on December 16.  Nothing in recent months has engendered any confidence that Casso is looking out for Ascension Parish’s best interest.  She is not alone among the council members who seem to be carrying Bernhard Capital Partners’ wastewater.