President Clint Cointment appears to be the lone skeptic of the most recent Cooperative Endeavor Agreement proposed by Ascension Sewer/National Water Infrastructure (NWI). On Monday the company offered a presentation to the Parish Council Utilities Committee which was met no council resistance. Given that six members participated, it bodes well for NWI which has yet to convince Ascension’s Chief Executive.
While Cointment conceded vast changes from a 2019 version:
- Ascension Parish Government (APG) would receive $15 million
- APG would not pay $11 million from its Water/Wastewater Construction Fund
- APG would not incur $60 million bonded indebtedness pursuant to a loan from Louisiana DEQ
- NWI will pay annual franchise fees to APG beginning around $500,000 with projected increases exceeding $1,000,000 (based on 3% of NWI revenues)
- NWI would take on necessary upgrades to the treatment system at Oak Grove School, saving APG $2.5 million
- Annual sewer subsidies absorbed by APG (approximately $3 million according to Baudier) will be eliminated
- NWI would operate treatment plants at parish schools, saving the School Board millions
he raised a series of “unanswered questions” hindering his willingness to “get on board this fast moving train.”
“This is supposed to be about cleaning Ascension Parish waterways,” insisted the parish president. “Unless there is some assurance that NWI’s proposal will accomplish that objective I see little point in pursuing any agreement.”
There was no discussion of environmental efficacy in NWI’s proposal on Monday, not by any council member anyway. Cointment did raise concerns over the CEA’s 40-year term, recommending some analysis, legal and technical, of “this brand new proposal.” NWI forwarded the new contractual documents on Friday according to Cointment.
“Critical components are not mentioned in the current CEA,” he asserted. “There is no construction timeline, no indication when or if NWI intends to expand its operation outside its current customer base and, if so, how NWI will go about it. We have no sense of future rate increases that are inevitable.”
The parish president was adamant that involvement by Louisiana DEQ, the Public Service Commission and other regulatory agencies is “necessary to avoid the threat of sanction. It won’t be NWI who those agencies come after if we don’t sufficiently address Ascension’s impaired waterways.”
Asked if he would exercise the presidential veto, assuming the council approves the proposal on September 17, Cointment declined to comment.