Vote-skipping Corey Orgeron was all bluff and bluster when he proposed a six-member Sewer Negotiation Team from the Parish Council’s Utilities Committee chair. Big talk, and little else, we eagerly await the progress (or lack thereof) toward a viable agreement with Ascension Sewer, LLC; one that won’t overburden toilet flushers or bankrupt Ascension. To that end, we posed a series of questions to Orgeron and his five negotiating teammates last week.
The team, formed as a subcommittee to Utilities, is comprised of Orgeron and three other council members; Joel Robert, Teri Casso and Dal Waguespack. Voted to the subcommittee chair is Ken Dawson, the Infrastructure Division Director, with Chief Administrative Officer John Diez rounding out the roster.
Council members, along with President Clint Cointment and key individuals in his administration are in Washington, D.C. attending the National Association of Counties (NACo) conference. We will publish any responses upon receipt. The questions posed, which we will continue to ask, were included in a February 27 email and reprinted in its entirety below:
Sewer Negotiation Team/Council members:
While unaware of any actual negotiations having commenced with/against Ascension Sewer, LLC, several questions continue to be directed to our editor concerning the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) proposed by the Bernhard Capital Partner-led consortium. Below are a few of the more persistent (in bold font) along with a few of our own.
Has the agreement voted upon, then deferred, at the December 20, 2019 meeting been revised in any meaningful particulars? If so, by whom (Ascension Sewer or some entity on behalf of Ascension Parish/Ascension Consolidated Utilities District No. 2)?
Should you respond in the affirmative, could you provide any details?
Has your committee commenced the effort to “evaluate the sewer proposal from Ascension Sewer LLC, resolve issues, and continue negotiation.”?
Is there a timeline in place, or deadline by which your committee intends to conclude these efforts?
President Clint Cointment’s administration has presented a potential alternative to Ascension Sewer’s CEA. Will your negotiations with/against Ascension Sewer be affected by that potential alternative?
For instance, will there be comparison of competing proposals to determine which is the better proposal for the rate and taxpaying citizens who elected you, if either?
Given the revelation that Baton Rouge customers of Ascension Wastewater Treatment (AWT) will not be subject to increased monthly rates in the CEA ($57.90 to begin), is the proposal still valid?
To clarify, Ascension Sewer’s Jeff Baudier insisted that inclusion of approximately 3,000 out-of-parish customers of AWT must be included to offer a beginning monthly rate of $57.90. Mr. Baudier went on to add that AWT’s Tom Pertuit was not interested in any deal wherein those out-of-parish customers were not taken over by ACUD#2. We believe that those customers in Livingston and Iberville will be excluded from increased rates, just as EBR’s will be
With a minimum 4% annual rate increase for ten years, the monthly rates settle in the mid-$80 range assuming no additional rate increase is approved by the parish council in the years to come; meaning over $1.5 million of annual income would be lost without 3,000 out-of-parish customers paying the increased rates borne by your Ascension constituents.
Specifically addressing the Operator Termination Fee found in Appendix IV of the Ascension Sewer proposal, the fee includes “the principal amount of any outstanding debt incurred…and any associated prepayment penalties or costs.
How much will those “prepayment penalties or costs” be?
Are there any particular objectives/contractual concessions you hope to attain by your efforts?
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in responding to these questions. Please feel free to elaborate and elucidate in any manner you deem appropriate.
With warmest personal regards,
Wade Petite, Owner/Editor