Council introducing ordinance to abolish ACUD#2, facilitate sale of $23.5 million in assets

Ascension Council and President

Ascension Parish Council’s meeting agenda for Thursday includes the introduction of an ordinance which would abolish Ascension Consolidated Utilities District No. 2 (ACUD#2), vesting its “debts, operations, and administration…with the Parish of Ascension.”  It is a step toward the ultimate goal, selling off any and all wastewater treatment infrastructure to a private entity and getting out of the sewer business; on the east bank of the parish anyway.

The council will also consider a “Cooperative Endeavor Agreement between Ascension Parish Council and ACUD #2 to clarify and transfer ownership, if necessary, of sewer assets from ACUD #2 to the Parish of Ascension.”

Those assets were itemized for Thursday’s agenda, coming to a little over $23.5 million.  Just under $22 million of the aggregate is “Total Sewer System & other Infrastructure” which includes 30 (and counting) community sewer systems dedicated to the parish by new residential subdivisions.  An earlier version of the parish council enacted an ordinance requiring such transfers.  Other systems, dating back to the 1990s, were taken over by the parish after system failures and are also included.

The remaining asset valuation is attributable to equipment, vehicles and a water system.

Little more than housekeeping, transferring the assets to the parish eliminates any procedural necessity of ACUD#2’s formalistic inclusion during negotiation with/against National Water Infrastructure (NWI).  The company is successor to Ascension Sewer, the consortium attempting comprehensive regional sewer treatment on Ascension’s east bank.  Is NWI willing to pay $23.5 million for those assets?

The parish hired two appraisers to assess value, though methodology employed to reach the appraised valuation and identity of appraiser are not included in Thursday’s meeting packet materials.

Negotiations with NWI are ongoing with varying assessments of productivity, depending on the source.  Speaking on the condition of anonymity one council participant seemed encouraged that “a deal could be close” while members of President Clint Cointment’s administration exhibited some frustration.  The goal, according to all sides, is to reach agreement in time to place necessary initiatives on the ballot for for voters to decide in Spring 2021 (March 20 or April 24).

For certain, purchase of parish-owned wastewater treatment assets by NWI is part of the deal which requires voter approval.  President Cointment has insisted that the entire agreement with NWI be put to the electorate too.