Ascension Parish officials take parishwide sewer pitch on the road

Michael Tortorich

Ascension Parish leaders kicked off an informational campaign with the first of four scheduled open-house events focused on the parishwide sewer proposal on the April 24 ballot.

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment, center, chats with District 6 council member Chase Melancon, Glenn Shaheen, and others March 16 during the open house event at Lowery Elementary School in Donaldsonville.

The March 16 meeting at Lowery Elementary School in Donaldsonville was sparsely attended by the public. 

The campaign will continue leading up to the election, which begins with the early voting period from April 10 to April 17. Officials also have scheduled events at 6 p.m. Friday at Prairieville Middle School, 6 p.m. April 7 at St. Amant Middle School and 6 p.m. April 19 at Dutchtown Middle School.

Parish President Clint Coinment, a few council members, and representatives of National Water Infrastructure were in attendance. The council’s Aaron Lawler, Dal Waguespack, John Cagnolatti, Joel Robert, Alvin “Coach” Thomas, and Chase Melancon were all on hand.

The gym floor was covered with several informational posters, touting the benefits of the proposed NWI partnership. 

The first poster presented the proposal, which would sell parish sewer assets and customers to NWI. The company would then invest $200 million to build a consolidated sewer system to serve the unincorporated areas on the east side of the parish. It would require no investment from the parish, and generate “millions in franchise fees,” according to the poster.

Key terms of the proposal include:

A one-time payment of $9.26 million to the parish based on the appraised value of the sewer assets, subject to Louisiana Public Service Commission approval.

An annual franchise fee of $500,000, said to likely increase as new customers are connected to the system.

Release of $15 million in tax funds dedicated to future sewer repairs. The freed up funds could then go toward roads, drainage, and recreation.

More than $3 million in annual tax savings previously allocated to subsidizing the cost of 2,000 existing parish sewer customers.

Another poster proclaimed the parish could save and earn more than $95 million over the next 20 years with the proposal.

Residents with individual systems would not be required to participate, according to one of the posters. Those living within the municipalities of Gonzales, Sorrento, and Donaldsonville would be affected by no longer subsidizing existing sewer customers.

Another poster touted the environmental benefit of removing waste from waterways.

Cointment delivered brief remarks from the podium.

“We’re going to be aggressively getting out, and getting the word out. Looking not only at clean waterways and the benefit to recreation when it comes to clean water, but a safe environment when our kids play in the yards. Every time it floods, those ditches with sewer in them flood out and into the yards where kids play. We’re trying to eliminate that,” the parish president said.

He added that the financial aspect of the proposal is “tremendous,” referring to the $95 million figure on the poster behind him.

“Imagine what you can do when you put that toward grant money, match money, 25/75 (percent), sometimes 90/10 (percent). How we can turn $95 million into $200, $300, $400 million to fix our infrastructure - roads, drainage and recreation. We’re talking about dramatic change, and that’s what’s on the ballot. That’s exciting for us. It’s something we’ve worked for over two years to get to this point.”