According to Chairwoman Teri Casso a counterproposal to Ascension Sewer/National Water Infrastructure’s (NWI) August 21 Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) will be made by next Friday. It was part of a Thursday Council discussion without any action being taken, not with regard to the CEA that is. At the urging of a momentarily lucid Councilman Corey Orgeron, a unanimous resolution was made:
That Ascension Parish will place a sale of all Ascension Consolidated Utilities District (ACUD) #2’s sewer assets on the March 20, 2021 ballot.
Coincidentally, that election date established by the State of Louisiana is the very same day when another CEA between the parish and NWI, this one granting exclusive negotiating rights to the conglomerate for two years, is set to expire. It was a different, scaled back resolution from that which Orgeron seemed to concoct on the fly, initially including conditions precedent to the sale:
- Execution of a purchase agreement within 90 days, which would in turn be subject to;
- Setting of the sales price after two separate appraisals are received
- Approval of the sewer asset transfer by the Public Service Commission
- Voter approval
Oddly enough, approval of the CEA was not considered a condition of the asset sale. Orgeron, joined by Councilmen Alvin Thomas and Dempsey Lambert, placed the operative item on Thursday’s agenda:
Approval of Purchase and Conveyance Agreement and Act of Transfer of property by and between ACUD No. 2 and National Water Infrastructure Inc. (Councilman Corey Orgeron, Councilman Dempsey Lambert, Councilman Alvin Thomas)
Outside of the trio, there seemed no legislative will to approve a sale, not last night anyway. As the administration, Chairwoman Casso and legal counsel pointed out; the sales price has not been determined and there has been no itemization of the assets to be transferred. Orgeron persisted.
“We have a parish president who has said, ‘ultimately, this will never be done’ under his watch…Without a timetable in place this will never bet accomplished,” declared the councilman/Utilities Committee chair. “Up until ten minutes ago I though we had a consensus, you and I,” Orgeron turned on Chairwoman Casso (not for the first time).
NOTE: Why sale of Ascension sewer assets is being considered separate and apart from the CEA, formerly deemed a “Construction and Operating Cooperative Endeavor Agreement,” is a mystery. Should the three sides (NWI, the Council, and President Clint Cointment) be unable to reach an agreement, sale of the assets is moot.
Sewer and politics makes strange bedfellows. It was Councilman Aaron Lawler (of all people) who defended President Cointment and the process, describing a “tremendous amount of forward momentum over the last several days” working hand-in-hand with Cointment. Any perceived delays, according to Lawler, were necessary “to get better terms for Ascension Parish…better and better for the people of Ascension Parish.”
Lawler is singing a different tune than 2019’s and earlier this year.
It was then President-Elect Clint Cointment whose efforts delayed an awful deal for Ascension Parish in 2019. It is President Clint Cointment whose hardline negotiating is most responsible for wringing any concessions from NWI, dragging the council along with with a few exceptions.
What about those CEA negotiations? To hear the parish’s lawyer, David Fleshman of Brazeale Sachse & Wilson, tell it; “positive progress…daily discussions” between NWI, four council members and the Cointment administration have inched closer to a deal. Casso asserted her belief that the parish’s counterproposal will be acceptable to NWI.
Since NWI’s proposal was forwarded to the parish, no details have been divulged much less discussed publicly. (If you’d like a copy, email us at email@example.com and a pdf will be forwarded).
Who are the four council members engaged in the negotiations? Casso, who selected the roster, did not divulge their identities specifically though clues were dropped during a lengthy discussion. She participated along with Councilman Lawler. We won’t hazard a guess as to the remainder.
What about the citizens of Ascension? Back in December 2019, and again at the incoming Council’s first meeting of 2020, “at least one public meeting” was to be held prior to a council vote on the CEA’s approval.