Only two Ascension Parish Utilities Committee members show for emergency meeting

Michael Tortorich

Just one other Ascension Parish Utilities Committee member attended the emergency meeting Chair Corey Orgeron called in an effort to address concerns about the Parish Utilities of Ascension water system, which serves some 3,000 westbank customers.

Ascension Parish Utilities Committee Chair Corey Orgeron called for an emergency meeting last week. Due to a lack of quorum, the meeting was adjourned.

Orgeron and council member Alvin “Coach” Thomas, whose district serves the west side, were the only committee members present for the roll call.

In previous days, the parish communications department released a boil-water advisory for PUA customers in the Mississippi Street area of Donaldsonville, due to a water main leak caused by construction in the area.

By Oct. 20, the boil-water advisory had been rescinded after samples were analyzed by the Louisiana Department of Health.

Orgeron thanked the members of the utilities department in attendance.

“It looks like we are a couple of people short this evening,” Orgeron said.

Due to not meeting quorum, Orgeron said he had no choice but to adjourn.

In a Facebook post last week, which has apparently been deleted, Orgeron said he and Thomas have been warning the administration that the pipes are “old and brittle,” with some aged as much as 100 years old.

Orgeron’s post said “it’s time to trim the fat and spend money in the utilities department where it’s needed.”

He also alluded to parish government being “extremely top heavy with too many executives,” and referenced engineering studies.

While he acknowledged the parish government should not be in the utilities business, he said it is their responsibility to provide safe drinking water to PUA’s customers.

Administrators have said the water utility was losing money before it was purchased three years ago, and has continued to lose money every year. 

The $5.9 million purchase of the former Peoples Water Company was done during the administration of the previous parish president, Kenny Matassa.

The current administration has agreed on a plan to replace water meters in order to get accurate readings, and bring in more revenue.

During the last parish council meeting, members voted to delay deciding on a USDA grant application to repair the system until the first meeting of March 2021.

Chief Administrative Officer John Diez said the parish could apply in 2022 after PUA becomes self-sufficient.

In order to get the grant, the parish must first borrow $9 million. After the loan, then comes the $8 million grant.