Ernst & Young’s comparative analysis of sewer plans removed from Council agenda

Chairwoman Teri Casso

Ascension Parish Council’s Tuesday agenda included a Resolution ­ to retain the firm of Ernst & Young to analyze and compare sewer plans (Chairwoman Teri Casso).  The item had been added after President Clint Cointment challenged “certain council members” for “intentional sabotage (and) manipulating the process in favor” of Bernhard Capital Partners which authored one of the “sewer plans” (Cointment’s administration proposed the other).  Without explanation, Casso pulled the item from last night’s teleconference meeting agenda.

What gives?

Councilman Corey Orgeron, who chairs the Utilities Committee that impaneled the ill-conceived and hastily disbanded Sewer Negotiating Committee, alluded to “events over the last 24 hours” while pondering whether a certain engineering contract should be approved.  That agenda item, Approval of Hartman Task Order #HEI­20­002 for Individual Treatment Unit (ITU) Inspection Program for $14,150.00 (Chairwoman Teri Casso), had also been added by the chair after Orgeron’s committee declined the administration’s request on June 15.

Utilities Committee rejects funding for inspection of Individual (Sewer) Treatment Units

According to Chief Administrative Officer John Diez the funding is aimed at “more than simply locating ITUs on a map.”  It is necessary to categorize the type of treatment system at each residence and develop a methodology to most efficiently inspect those ITUs.  All concerned seem to have conceded that responsible regulatory agencies will require the inspection program, sooner as opposed to later.

Councilman Aaron Lawler, who moved to accept the $14,150 request without a second on June 15, offered an amendment to increase the Hartman Engineering contract to $47,500 last night.  Breaking ranks, Orgeron wondered:

“Considering everything that we have currently on the table…dealing with the sewer plan in general, do we really want to throw $47,500 or, for that matter, $14,150, out for a project that may not be necessary?”

But Lawler had the votes in a 9-2 decision.  Orgeron and Councilman Dempsey Lambert comprised the minority.

Lost in the discussion was the comparative analysis of competing sewer treatment plans by Ernst & Young.  There is no way that Bernhard Capital Partners’ proposal can compete with the administration’s plan, not from a strictly financial perspective anyway.  Ernst & Young is not the company to hire for technical advice.

Much was lacking in its 2019 analysis of the Bernhard proposal.  Most glaring was the failure to include an analysis of Appendix IV: Operator Termination Fee.  Ernst & Young cannot be blamed for the omission since the Fee is predicated upon a “Base Rate Financial Model” which Bernhard has refused to disclose.

In a recent correspondence Bernhard imposed a July 31 deadline to accept its proposal.