With low turnout, sewer agreement garners widespread support

With less than one-tenth of the electorate bothering to exercise the franchise, Ascension Parish’s Sewer Conveyance and Franchise Agreement with National Water Infrastructure (NWI) was approved by a comfortable 961-vote margin.  56% of the voters approved the deal, pitched as a means to fund other necessary infrastructure improvements more than an initiative to address the parish’s waterways impaired by wastewater effluent.  And the measure garnered widespread support on Election Day, though turnout was low.

Saturday saw 4,811 voters go to the polls, a number augmented by 2,844 early/absentee ballots, 57% of which favored the proposition (1,616 versus 1,228) providing a 388-vote cushion.  That lead was increased on Election Day when 2,692 votes to approve were cast, compared to 2,119 in opposition; a 573-vote majority that resulted in the final margin; 4,308/3,347.

The agreement had broad appeal, winning a majority in 51 of Ascension’s 73 voting precincts (Precinct 60, along the Mississippi River’s east bank, has no voters).  19 precincts disfavored the agreement, while three ended in a dead heat.

As anticipated, Ascension’s unaffected municipalities supported the ballot initiative though not as vigorously as some, including this writer, thought they would.  Gonzales, Sorrento and Donaldsonville all have their own treatment systems.  The first two are on the east bank, the last on the west.

Gonzales and Donaldsonville experienced higher turnout, in large part because many of their voting precincts also had the 2nd Congressional District runoff between Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson on the ballot.  60.3% of Gonzales’ voters approved for a 128-vote margin; 62% of Donaldsonville’s voters did the same, resulting in a +155 margin on Election Day.

Sorrento voters were evenly split (33-33).

The agreement fared best in those areas south of Gonzales where two subdivisions, Pelican Point and Pelican Crossing, account for a significant amount of voters; just under 70% of whom voted “YES”.  The agreement fared worst in the northeast corner of Ascension, five Galvez precincts where 53.1% of electorate opposed on Election Day.  Ascension’s other northernmost precincts went solidly in favor (55.5%) on Saturday.

North Ascension is significant because it includes the areas most directly affected by the Sewer Conveyance and Franchise Agreement.  The Hwy 42 and Hwy 73 corridors include the majority of existing NWI customers who will see rate increases, subject to approval by Louisiana’s Public Service Commission.  Dutchtown/Geismar can be added to that queue, both areas that went heavy for the agreement, nearly 59%.

St. Amant, which will not see any effects for decades, if ever, split down the middle.  Six precincts accumulated 446 Election Day votes with 223 for, 223 against.