A million and counting on Wastewater improvements

Maintenance and repairs to the wastewater system are approaching the $1 million mark over the past year and there’s evidently more to come.

The City Council at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night asked the administration to work with the Wastewater Department to address sewer line maintenance issues and develop a work plan to fix them where they exist.

Alderman Jack Burson noted that a number of neighborhoods have back-up problems, usually in periods of heavy rain as runoff enters the system.

Mayor Bob Morris asked if there might be any such plans on file somewhere from years past. Burson said there might be but he has been unable as yet to locate them.

Councilman Bubba Bourque, who pushed for regular line maintenance at this time last year, said the city needs an on-going plan and on-going crews for the work. “Hopefully something gets done this time,” he said.

The mayor told the council that the expenses over the past 12 months at the wastewater plant involve nothing new, that the city is “fixing what hasn’t been fixed in 15 years” and following recommendations made as far back as 2004.

That explanation was in response to Alderwoman Chawana Fontenot’s concern about who the city was replying in doing what has been done to this point.

“We’re spending money because you say it needs to be done. But there’s nothing documented on why we’re doing it and what’s being done,” she told Morris, asking him “don’t get defensive” over her concerns.

The meeting hung for a moment at that point between heated exchange and civil discussion. Civility won out as Morris reviewed what had been done and the involvement of consulting engineers Gary Beard and Andre Aucoin in the process.

In October, the city provided the Department of Environmental Quality a detailed list and schedule of what it would do at the plant to satisfy DEQ’s order to meet effluent discharge standards by next fall.

“Everything is on schedule at the plant,” Morris had said earlier, saying the city is now preparing to step up its effort to get the 19 lift stations up to speed.

“We’re going to make a diligent effort to get it right,” Morris said, telling the public if they have a sewerage problem to let City Hall know.

Earlier, Aucoin told the council plans are complete for upgrade of a lift station in the vicinity of Popeye’s, an upgrade necessary before Holiday Inn Express taps into the system.

The project cost is estimated at less than $50,000 and the council appeared comfortable with getting quotes rather than going through a formal bid process.

Aucoin also gave the council a proposal for studying specifics necessary for putting in place wastewater infrastructure in anticipation of future development on the city’s west end.

Burson asked the administration to conduct a fiscal analysis of the proposal and Alderman Dale Soileau wondered if the work could be delayed until the next budget year, which Morris thought “an admirable suggestion.”

The administration hopes to provide capital improvements which would minimize the number of lift stations needed as development continues on that end of the city.

Gravity flow would direct collection to some central points, where lift stations would push it along toward the wastewater plant.

Morris reported to the council that new collection lines along LSUE Drive and to serve the Eunice Superette are complete and inspected and awaiting tap-in by customers.

The council voted to accept a bid of $294,500 for an emergency generator at the wastewater plant.

Burson asked if the generator was within a feasible wastewater budget. Morris responded that he thought the city needs to get the plant in shape and noted a generator was part of the original plans when the plant was last modified in 1987.

The current budget has $270,000 in sales tax money earmarked for Wastewater Plant capital improvements. It also has $375,000 in sales tax funds set aside for wastewater equipment maintenance, $146,000 of which had been spent through Nov. 30.

Fontenot and Bourque voted against the generator purchase. Burson, Soileau and Marguerite Fruge-Simpson voted to buy it.

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