Sewer proposal presented to Donaldsonville City Council

Michael Tortorich

Ascension Parish Chief Administrative Officer John Diez addressed the Donaldsonville City Council during the April 13 meeting about the parishwide sewer proposal on the April 24 ballot.

Ascension Parish Chief Administrative Officer John Diez speaks to members of the Donaldsonville City Council during the April 13 meeting. He gave a presentation on the parishwide sewer proposal.

Parish leaders have been on an informational campaign, both in-person and online, over recent weeks. Ultimately, voters will decide if the parish will enter into a deal to sell eastbank sewer assets and allow National Water Infrastructure to run a regional sewer system.

As pointed out by the administration in the past, Diez said the parish has spent $42 million subsidizing some 2,000 sewer customers in the last 10 years. In previous meetings, the parish council has discussed how regional sewer talks date back to the 1990s.

According to a flyer Diez provided at the meeting, the proposal would save taxpayers millions of dollars, result in millions in franchise fees NWI will pay to the parish, and require no investment by the parish.

The municipalities of Donaldsonville, Gonzales, and Sorrento, as well as residents with individual septic tanks, will no longer subsidize parish sewer customers.

If passed, NWI would pay $9 million to the parish based on the appraised value of the assets, pending Public Service Commission approval. NWI would also pay about $500,000 in franchise fees, which could increase based on new customers added to the system.

Also, NWI would invest $200 million into building a modern, consolidated system. The company would be obligated to build and operate the plant within 60 months.

Parish leaders have said the money saved in the budget could go toward other priorities. Diez said both the administration and council are in agreement on the deal.

Once money would accumulate, Diez said it could go into a “mega infrastructure” fund, with all of it going to “brick and mortar” projects.

According to Diez, parish leaders did not want to take away from the discussion of passing the proposal through the election. Deciding which district will get specific line items would be decided after voters pass the proposition, he added.

In other matters:

-- Fire Chief Adam Gautreaux said the fire department responded to three fires during March.

Council member Lauthaught Delaney said he wanted to publicly thank the firefighters for their quick response in saving a building on Houmas Street this month.

 “The crew did a great job,” Gautreaux said. “We do a lot of training, and that just showcased it.”

He added that everyone was evacuated, and firefighters were able to swiftly stop the fire.

-- The council approved the Sunrise Community Group’s pop-up shop event for May 22 at the River Road African American Museum’s Rosenwald School building.

Kurt Mitchell said the tentative times will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. He said small businesses will be set up in a festival-like atmosphere.

-- After heavy rains fell throughout the day, the council discussed flooding issues in the city.

Some of the city’s roads had to be closed temporarily, according to the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Council member Michael Sullivan said he recently rode a four-wheeler to inspect drainage canals and found five beaver dams.

The council agreed to continue the discussion during the next committee of the whole meeting.

-- The council introduced Ordinance 2021-04, which amends the manner of addressing the council and time limits.

The section of the code of ordinances establishes procedures for the public-comment period during meetings.

The allotted time will be three minutes. By a majority vote of the council, the speaker may be allowed more time.

A public hearing will be May 11.