No vote on sewer deal; and none scheduled as Cointment presents alternative

On December 20 an outgoing parish council rejected a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Ascension Sewer, LLC; then voted to place the same agreement on last night’s agenda for the new council to consider.  No vote was had as Councilman Corey Orgeron moved to refer the agreement “back to Utilities Committee” (which he happens to chair).  That came after President Clint Cointment presented details on the parish’s existing sewer treatment plant in Darrow…and the possibility of expanding it.

Was the presentation a first step toward the administration undertaking regional sanitary sewer without Ascension Sewer and its primary owner, Bernhard Capital Partners’ participation?

“My administration has been reviewing all options related to sewer in order to control costs and keep rates low for the citizens of our parish,” Cointment would reiterate after telling the council much the same thing.

“Trains” at current Darrow-Hillaryville treatment plant

According to Cointment’s slide show the treatment plant at Darrow-Hillaryville is treating 20,000 gallons of sewer a day, with potential to increase capacity to 240,000 gallons per day.  Pictured above are two “trains” with space (where truck is seen at right) for a third.  Each train can handle 80,000 gallons per day and, at present, only one of the existing trains is being used to 25% capacity.

The plant is already discharging into the Mississippi River, a key requirement for any sewer treatment plan satisfying Louisiana’s DEQ.  The discharge sleeve emptying into the Big Muddy is capable of accommodating 50,000 users according to the parish president.

Cointment also noted the plant’s relative isolation…

sited on eight acres where expansions could yield the ability to treat 2 millions gallons per day.

It certainly appeared like he was presenting an alternative to Ascension Sewer’s proposal though Cointment indicated a willingness to resume negotiations with the consortium.  A unanimous council referred its proposal back to Utilities Committee without a timetable for consideration pursuant to Orgeron’s motion, amended by Councilman Aaron Lawler.

Corey Orgeron

“I have concerns over taking on any other options, looking at anything else until we comply with the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (approved by the former council on May 16, 2019),” Orgeron continued negotiating against the interests of Ascension Parish.  “I feel that we need to address that since, you know, it’s a contract the parish has entered into.”

President Cointment responded that a legal opinion concerning the agreement’s strictures would be forthcoming at a future Utilities Committee meeting.

Lawler’s amended his motion requested that Cointment’s administration “take the lead” in conducting a public meeting.  On December 20 the vote was made contingent on “at least one” public meeting being held.  To date that public meeting has not been scheduled.

Lawler conceded “it’s too early for that” which calls into question the former council’s eagerness to vote on the Ascension Sewer agreement in November-December of 2019.