Ascension looking at expanding sewer, wastewater systems

The Ascension Parish Council hired a consultant Thursday night to develop a sewer plan for a portion of the parish and a financial road map for possibly creating a larger wastewater management program for the parish’s east bank.

The council voted unanimously to hire Glenn Shaheen & Associates Inc., an engineering consulting firm with offices in Baton Rouge and Gonzales, to create a feasibility study for providing sewer services for a portion of the parish including La. 73 between Interstate 10 and Airline Highway.

Councilman Benny Johnson said that part of the parish was chosen because La. 73 “runs down the heart” of it, and the widening of the highway includes a sewer component. The engineering firm, also called GSA, is being tasked with finding how much it will cost to service the residents in that area of Prairieville.

Johnson said a pipeline would be constructed from the northern parish line on Airline Highway to tie into the pipeline at La. 73, and the system eventually would be connected to La. 42. The widening of that highway, which is expected to start this summer, also includes a sewer component.

Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said the cost of the GSA contract would be $100,000. The firm actually finished second behind CSRS Inc., a Baton Rouge design firm, in the engineer selection committee’s rankings of the firms that responded to the parish’s request for qualifications for the project.

However, the Parish Council’s Utilities Committee unanimously recommended GSA during a meeting Wednesday night, and the full council unanimously approved that recommendation on Thursday.

Parish Councilwoman Teri Casso asked if choosing a firm not ranked No. 1 would affect the parish’s ability to attract federal dollars, but Martinez said the scoping project would be paid for only with parish dollars. The parish then will have to send out a request for proposals for firms to implement GSA’s plan. At that point, he said, the council likely would be required to accept the top-ranked firm.

The parish has $18 million on hand from a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality loan, and Johnson said the council likely will have to seek a tax to implement the plan. He said he’s hopeful that tax can be on the November ballot, but council members have not determined if that should be a sales or property tax.

Part of GSA’s task is to determine how much money is needed for the complete project, and then the council can make those decisions “down the line,” Johnson said.

GSA will be given four weeks to present a plan to the parish, and then council members will “have something concrete” in order to further develop the plan.

“We feel like the four-week time frame would be plenty of time” to get the answers the council is seeking, Johnson said.