EDITOR’s NOTE: Is newly-elected District 4 Councilman Corey Orgeron “in the bag” for Bernhard Capital Partners/Ascension Sewer, just like his predecessor was? Our concerns are predicated upon the highlighted excerpt of Orgeron’s offering below (which appeared on his campaign Facebook page only moments ago). (Emphasis added).
As newly appointed Utilities Committee Chair, I feel it is my duty to address the citizens of Ascension Parish regarding the need for a Regional Sewer Treatment Facility to service our parish.
Initially, I want to thank the members of the previous council, those who have departed office as well as those who remain. The diligent efforts you performed on behalf of all constituents should be applauded; I realize the tremendous pressures you faced from both the electorate as well as State and Federal authorities demanding a resolution to the sewer and pollution problems. I thank you all for the courage to seek and bring forth plan after plan, proposal after proposal, all in an effort to do the job the voters expected of you. The fact that you recognized the sincerity of the public in their desire to further review the current proposal is appreciated by myself and my fellow freshman councilmen. We are dedicated to continue the search for the best possible solution to the problem.
On December 20, 2019 the prior council opted to defer voting on the Ascension Sewer, LLC proposal until January 23, 2020. In that decision, the council promised that prior to a vote on the matter the Parish would hold an Open House to invite citizen comment. Due to the holidays, the evolving new administration, and, frankly, the short period of time between the inauguration and January 23rd, that open house was never held. Therefore, as Utilities Committee Chair, I believe that the vote should be removed from the agenda and that the matter be referred to the Utilities Committee for further deliberation. This will allow the committee to schedule an open house in February to listen to citizens’ concerns and receive input from the public. We should then enter negotiations with Ascension Sewer, LLC in order to receive their best proposal; these negotiations will be open to all council members as well as representatives from the administration. Once we have received Ascension Sewer’s final proposal, that document will be made available to the public at least ten days prior to any vote. I would like to hold additional public meetings to share document with the public. My goal is to finalize this process and vote on the proposal no later than the March 19, 2020 General Council meeting.
We ask that the public show both confidence and patience with us as we engage in seeking the best option to provide regional sewer to Ascension Parish. We further ask that the public appreciate the need to negotiate with Ascension Sewer, LLC as the Parish is bound to do so under the terms of a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement signed last year. A failure to negotiate in good faith could be considered a breach of the CEA, which could lead to litigation. I appreciate that there are those in our parish government that desire we look at other options; however, any effort by the council or the administration to do so could seriously compromise the Parish.
Our goal is to listen to our constituents then negotiate, review, share and vote on Ascension Sewer’s proposal, as we are required to do so in compliance with the CEA. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Given that the parish cannot negotiate with anyone else until May 2021 (we do not read the “Cooperative Endeavor Agreement signed last year” to require negotiation with Bernhard, merely to prevent negotiation with others) why would Orgeron set an arbitrary deadline, March 19, for council consideration? Has Orgeron consulted with Chairwoman Teri Casso about the timing?
Orgeron’s warning (“A failure to negotiate in good faith could be considered a breach of the CEA, which could lead to litigation”) makes us wonder how much he stands to gain for lobbying Bernhard’s case. Whose side are you on Mr. Orgeron?