Federal loan may kickstart planned sewerage system

Wade McIntyre

A low interest federal government loan could be in the works for Ascension Parish to construct the first leg of its planned east bank sewer system.

Parish President Tommy Martinez said Thursday at the regular council meeting that the parish is eligible for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan if it completes an application within 30 days.

The loan would be available next year for $18 million, a small portion of the cost for the currently estimated $187 million system.

Martinez called eligibility for the loan “great news” for the parish.

The current sewer plan was originally announced during a State of the Parish address by former president Ronnie Hughes, but has lain dormant since them. The multi-phase phase plan calls initially for a sewage treatment plant to be build on a plot of land donated to the parish by BASF.

The parish will have to supplement the $18 million loan in order to complete the estimated $43 million first phase of the project.

Parish CAO Cedric Grant actually applied for a $53 million loan, but received the lower amount, Martinez said.

In his president’s address, Martinez also reported the parish will offer residents a free discounted prescription drug program starting Nov. 2.

The plan is to be offered through the National Association of Counties, requires no enrollment fees and has no age requirement, Human Resources Director Sherry Kinchen said.

Enrolled parish residents will receive the lowest retail price from both major chains and local pharmacies, according to Kinchen.

“I think its going to be a good program,” she said.

Residents will be issued a drug discount card upon enrollment in the program.

In an unrelated matter the council voted to hire American Traffic Solutions Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz. as the vendor of its proposed right light cameras to be set up at intersections targeted by the Sheriff’s Office.

ATS firm was the only one applying to provide installation and maintenance of the cameras. The company is also used in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Sheriff Jeff Wiley has pitched the cameras in an effort to improve safety on parish roads.

The cameras will be placed at intersections considered busy and dangerous according to the sheriff’s department.

In other business, the council:

• Supplemented its in-house legal defense by hiring attorney Robert A. Barnett of Guste, Barnett, Schlesinger, Henderson and Alpaugh LLP as special counsel regarding to District Court lawsuits which have been filed against the parish since President Tommy Martinez allowed the Alligator Bayou floodgate to be opened and drain the bayou. The special counsel contract is not to exceed $50,000, according parish counsel Lindsey Manda.

• Renewed the annual $25,000 Volunteer Ascension budget.

• Approved a low bid of $5,350,00 and an alternate $35,000 landscaping bid from Arkel Constructors for renovations and an addition to the Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales.

• Approved a change order request for $5,237.72 to furnish and install plumbing pipe installation above the ceiling at the 7th District Fire Station.