Morris puts hold on wastewater contract

The City Council will revisit next month its decision to renew a contract allowing pre-treated wasted into its sewerage system.

Mayor Bob Morris said he has instructed City Attorney Jacque Pucheu to stop any legal work on the renewal of Environmental Processing Inc.’s contract.

“My position is that the contract is illegal, that it is a violation of the state constitution, and so it is null and void and is unenforceable. I came to that conclusion after speaking with (Alderman at-large) Jack Burson and Jacque,” the mayor said.

Asked on what basis he reached those conclusions, Morris said the constitution prohibits a private entity getting a public service below cost.

The council renewed EPI’s contract after hearing an urgent appeal from owner John Baham at its April meeting. The matter first came up a month earlier when Morris questioned EPI’s $300 monthly rate.

EPI is the first treatment facility built by a septage collection company, in this case Baham Industries, in Louisiana. From design to last July’s final DEQ inspection, the construction process took about two years.

When it tabled the matter, the council asked consulting engineer Andre Aucoin to give it some some study. Aucoin was in the audience at Tuesday night’s meeting, but wasn’t asked for his input.

In late March, the city conducted a preliminary study which indicated its wastewater operating costs were about a penny per gallon.

Morris said at the time that that number was very tentative.

When the council approved the renewal, Pucheu noted the contract does provide for annual review of the rate charged EPI.

The ordinance established Eunice wastewater rates for commercial and non-commercial customers is not currently based on volume

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