BOONDOGGLE- a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft (Merriam Webster)
If you thought Ascension’s purchase of Peoples Water Company on the parish’s west bank was a boondoggle, you ain’t seen nothing yet. While the dilapidated water system cost $5.9 million to acquire, at least the parish acquired it (what price would the system fetch on the open market today?). For the third time since October 2017 members of the Parish Council’s Utilities Committee are being asked to spend $306,200 for upgrades to a privately-owned sewer treatment package plant without acquiring any ownership interest in the physical asset whatever.
Infrastructure Director William Daniel is going before Utilities tonight to recommend paying $121,125 toward Parish Utilities of Ascension (formerly Peoples Water); $49,125.00 for “Design and Contract Administration” to renovate PUA’s Laboratory and Offices, plus $72,000 for a consultant to provide six months of “evaluation and operational assistance” with “water treatment and production.” Daniel has also promised a list of needed capital improvements for several months now, along with an estimate of the cost and recommended funding mechanisms.
The actual cost of Peoples Water will not be known for some time in the distant future. Whatever it is, though, will be dwarfed when Ascension dives into the sanitary sewer business on the east bank.
A Special Utilities Committee was called for August 29, 2017 when the only agenda item, Acceptance of contract with AWT to provide wastewater treatment for Highway 73 connections (CAO Ken Dawson), was canceled due to inclement weather. Another Special Utilities Committee was convened on October 24, 2017 at the Parish Governmental Complex where it was not televised.
Chairman Randy Clouatre and his committee were supposed to consider a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Ascension Wastewater Treatment, Inc. (AWT) to pay $306,200 to the company for upgrades to its treatment plant at Renaissance Subdivision. The Committee took no action on the proposed agreement amid confusion over why the meeting had occurred at all. No one would even take credit for calling it.
Inexplicably, no one was present to represent AWT which, incomprehensibly, had no input drafting the agreement…if one believes Chief Administrative Officer (at the time Interim Utilities Director) Ken Dawson that is. Someone proposed paying AWT to add capacity to its Renaissance plant because:
“The capacity addition to Renaissance Treatment Plant is for the purpose of adding capacity for Hollows of Dutchtown (196 Lots), the Hwy 73 Homes (80 Lots), and the 1 Storage Facility (2 Bathrooms, 1 Employee)…For this amount of capacity at the Renaissance Treatment Plant, Ascension Parish shall make a one-time payment to AWT in the amount of $306,200.”
Verbiage which is retained in the agreement up for consideration tonight, though reconfigured in a document specifying the volume of “additional capacity” and designating “Impacted Areas” (defined as “the customers initially to be served” by AWT’s Renaissance treatment plant who do not reside in that subdivision). “‘Impacted areas’ shall mean the residential and commercial establishments (Customers) along and/or adjacent to certain sewage collection pipelines located east of Interstate 10 to Airline Highway and along Louisiana Highway 73.”
“We’re gonna own the facilities,” claimed William Daniel on February 6. “We’re going to own the collection system, the pump station, and the force main to their sewer plant…I wish I could tell you the day and time we will be taking (AWT’s Renaissance treatment plant) ourselves but my crystal ball’s not working that well…I’ll recommend right now that we go forward with (the agreement).”
In the meantime, “The parties agree that the terms set forth in this document shall terminate after thirty-nine (39) years or upon the Parish exercising its right to take over the services provided by AWT herein.” Which means Ascension Parish will NOT own Renaissance Subdivision’s treatment plant, the one owned and operated by AWT (not anytime soon anyway). As to the 196 lots in Hollows of Dutchtown, the 80 lots on Hwy 73, and that storage facility; what happens when they flush the toilet now?
Hollows of Dutchtown’s preliminary and final plats were approved by the Planning Commission which requires a Department of Health-approved plan to treat its sewage. And that plan was for AWT’s Renaissance treatment plant to handle the dirty job; which is the reason for those aforementioned upgrades valued, after the fact, at $306,200.
And now, the Utilities Committee (five members of the Parish Council) is being asked to reimburse AWT for the cost of those upgrades. Then, at some time in the next four decades, if the parish ever gets into the sanitary sewer business, Ascension taxpayers will purchase the Renaissance Plant at the enhanced value created by that $306,200 reimbursement. Any way you slice it the parish will be double-paying for the upgrades.
All together now: