At the most recent meeting of Ascension’s Council Utilities Committee the ordinance creating a Mega-Infrastructure Fund was recommended for approval. The fund is intended to as the repository for most of the funds generated or saved once the sewer treatment agreement with National Water Infrastructure (NWI) is effectuated. Once codified the fund should see a $20 million, or more, cash infusion with annual deposits in the $4 million range, all devoted exclusively to actual infrastructure projects going forward.
According to Councilman Chase Melancon, who chairs the committee, those monies originate from:
- $9.26 million from the sale of all sewer treatment assets to NWI;
- 75% General Fund excess devoted to subsidizing east bank sewer operations for decades (a $4.2 million annual average over the most recent deccade); and
- All funds currently in the water/wastewater construction fun (a floating figure that was going to satisfy a $15 million parish obligation when the disastrous 2019 version of the deal came up for vote on December 20, 2019).
Melancon referenced the proposed ordinance’s “very specific language” as he itemized projects eligible for Mega-Infrastructure Fund funding:
- Safety widening of roads
- Intersection improvements
- Bridge construction upgrades
- Highway interchanges (federal matching)
- The parish’s Move Ascension program
- Dredging of canals
- Improvements to Ascension[‘s Levee Protection Systems
- Construction of Regional Detention Areas
NOTE: The Recreation Department has already been made the recipient of all franchise fees from NWI, 4.5% of its gross customer fees anticipated to generate approximately $500,000 annually to start.
The ordinance, in full and as it appeared after recent amendments, is reprinted below. Text in blue are recent additions; red text indicates a deletion:
“Upon the sale of the East Bank Sewer utility assets, all proceeds from sale will be deposited into the Mega-Infrastructure Fund. The Mega-Infrastructure Fund was created for the purpose of improving the infrastructure and capital assets of the Parish as it relates to transportation, drainage, and recreational needs. As such, the funds of the Mega-Infrastructure Fund shall only be used in the construction of capital assets and infrastructure projects including, but not limited to Recreation Parks, Transportation and for the safety widening of roads, intersection improvements, bridge construction/upgrade, Federal Highway Interchanges, transfer into the Ascension Parish MOVE ASCENSION Program, and Drainage for the dredging of canals, improvement and/or addition of Ascension Parish Levee Protection Systems, or construction of regional detention areas. (h)However, the funds can only be used for construction items considered direct costs such as labor, material, equipment and land which are incorporated into the capital asset or infrastructure. No funds are to be used for
professional services, such as engineering services, feasibility studies, architectural services unless such professional services or studies can qualify as matching funds for any project. No funds are to be used for the construction of parish owned buildings designed for administrative functions, salaries of current or future parish employees nor any costs incidental, indirect or general and administrative in nature. The funds may also be used as matching funds to any State or Federal funds for Parish projects which involve construction of capital assets or infrastructure. The funds shall not be moved out of the Mega-Infrastructure Fund without a majority approval of the Ascension Parish Governing Authority.”