NWI to operate parish sewer assets on east bank pending PSC approval of sale

As National Water Infrastructure (NWI), LLC prepares to present its agreement to purchase east bank Ascension “sewer assets” to Louisiana’s Public Service Commission, an intermediate agreement for Operation & Maintenance of those lingering “assets” was recommended by the Utilities Committee on Monday.  The interim agreement envisions Ascension paying NWI $10,000/month “on an as needed basis.”  According to Utilities Chairman Chase Melancon, any amount over that figure, due to unforeseen circumstances, would require Council approval.

The agreement will expire when PSC approval is obtained, triggering a transfer of east bank sewer infrastructure to NWI.  If all goes well, there would be a $61,000 savings from the amount currently budgeted to maintain and operate sewer (according CFO Patrick Goldsmith).

On April 24 voters approved the sale of  Ascension’s east bank “sewer assets” (which cost Ascension taxpayers about $4 million annually to subsidize) to NWI, the application for requisite PSC approval will be presented “before the end of this year.,” according to NWI’s Tom Pertuit.  Pertuit explained that the PSC has 12 months within which to render its decision, and “historically, they use all of it.”

On the west bank the parish operates a water system comprised of Parish Utilities of Ascension (PUA) and Ascension Consolidated Utilities District (ACUD) #1.  Until recently there had been discussions about a potential sale of the system to a private entity among the Council and President Clint Cointment’s administration.  Those discussions have ended, the decision to retain publicly-owned west bank water seeming to coincide with the hiring of a new Chief Financial Officer.

Ascension purchased Peoples Water Company in September of 2016.  The former administration could never (at least no publicly) accurately assess amount of water loss, establish consistent rate payment, nor provide reliable profit/loss numbers.  Anyone remember these guys…

William Daniel (left) with his boss, President Matassa. (October 2017)

A $17.5 million USDA loan/grant available, the Cointment administration pumped the brakes in 2020, unsure of the source to repay the loan portion (approximately $10 million).

Pursuant to USDA rules the loan must be repaid before receipt of any grant.  Having put pencil to paper, it has been determined that PUA/ACUD #1 can be operated without incurring a loss which would require subsidization from the General Fund.  There is even speculation of a profit in the future.

Donaldsonville’s Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas urged his colleagues to re-paint the existing water tower (see above) on Veterans Blvd to reflect parish ownership.  Requiring a particular exterior coating, the project is included in the USDA funding that will upgrade/reinforce the interior tank as part of a $500,000 expenditure.  According to Gavin Fleming of the Utilities Department, removal and recoating of the tank’s exterior is also part of the plan, costing “in the upper hundreds of thousands of dollars.”