Cointment updates Gonzales City Council on sewer plan

Scott J. Anderson
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment updated Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux and the Gonzales City Council on the proposal to sell the parish’s sewer system to National Water Infrastructure.

If the proposal passes on the April 24 ballot, will build a consolidated sewer system to serve the unincorporated areas of Ascension Parish.

The terms of the deal include a $9.26 million payment to the parish to acquire the assets, although the final purchase price is subject to approval by the Public Service Commission. It also includes an annual $500,000 franchise fee, which is likely to increase as the system adds customers. That franchise fee would be dedicated to recreation in the parish, Cointment said.

Cointment also said that if the proposal passes, it would free up money for major state or federal projects throughout the parish that would require matching funds.

“We currently have $15 million in our wastewater treatment fund,” he said. “That would be transferred to the mega-project fund, so that anytime a project came down, we would be able to have the match money on hand to equal the grant and start the project. That’s been a problem in the past.”

The parish also would save more than $3 million a year, which could be returned to the general fund.

“When I campaigned, nobody ever mentioned sewer,” Cointment said. “Roads was always No. 1, then it was drainage after 2016, and then recreation and an assortment of other issues. We’d like to allocate those oneies to itmes that are more important to the public.”

Other benefits Cointment mentioned in his presentation include the $200 million investment by NWI in a modern sewer system, which also will create construction jobs. It also will save Ascension Parish Schools $350,000 to $600,000 associated with constructing sewer systems at new schools. A new sewer system also will reduce the amount of sewer water in drainage ditches by about 3 million gallons a day.

Cointment said the proposal will save municipalities in the parish, including Gonzales, by ending subsidies for sewer service in unincorporated areas of the parish.

“If you vote yes on this proposition, you will no longer subsidize that,” he said. “That will go to more important items.”

The council also passed a resolution to declare a State of Emergency and a threat to public safety in Silverleaf subdivision and authorize its destruction.

The council originally approved a contract with Concrete Busters to demolish the subdivision. But one of the other companies that bid on the project filed suit against the city, putting the project on hold. City Attorney Matt Percy said the situation has deteriorated further, prompting the resolution.

“It’s in absolute disarray,” Percy said of Silverleaf. “It’s a threat to public safety, and it’s downright scary. I think your potential exposure, legally, in regard to the dangers the subdivision poses greatly outweighs any damages you may be open to.”

Councilmembers also appointed Kemlyn Bailey Lomas to the Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission. She will replace Eddie Williams, who resigned for the commission last week.

In other action, the council:

  • Approved a Special Event Permit for a Parade of Homes event from 1 to 5 p.m. April 24-25 and May 1-2 at the Village at Conway.
  • Proclaimed April 5-9 as National Community Development Block Grant Program Week.
  • Adopted a resolution of support and authorizing the City of Gonzales to prepare an application for federal funding for a CARE (Community, Activities Recreation and Education) Center on Darla Avenue.
  • Adopted a resolution to adjust fees for water meters and their installation.
  • Authorized the city to prepare and submit a pre-application to the Statewide Flood Control Program to assist with a project to reduce existing flood damages.
  • Approved Hancock Whitney to monitor funding for the Price LeBlanc PACE Center.

The council also introduced several ordinances, which will be up for a vote in two weeks:

  • An ordinance authorizing the issuance of a Taxable Hotel Occupancy Tax Bond, Series 2021, in an amount not to exceed $4.5 million to build the PACE Center.
  • And ordinance to clarify the code of ordinances regarding votes by the planning and zoning commission. The ordinance would require three consenting votes on any issue, as long as a quorum is present.
  • Two ordinances to amend city codes regarding vagrancy and “possession of dangerous weapons in alcoholic beverage establishments” to align with state law.