21 firms attend pre-bid conference on Ascension sewer work

Companies vying to manage construction of the first phase of a regional public sewer system in Ascension Parish must have qualifications submitted by Feb. 14.

Parish officials said Wednesday that 50 people representing 21 engineering firms attended a pre-bid conference Monday on the likely three-year, $1.2 million contract.

“We had a good meeting, laid out what our scope and what our goals are and where we’re trying to get with this project and what our time frame is,” said Councilman Benny Johnson, council Utilities Committee chairman.

He told members that firms submitting qualifications will go through the parish’s normal review and selection process, which includes rating of firms by a special administrative review committee and ends with a council vote.

The firm selected will oversee a minimum of three other companies to design the new system, then manage its construction. The proposed system generally includes the La. 73 and La. 42 corridors and a northern stretch of Airline Highway. At parish cost, state highway contractors already are installing new sewer lines along La. 73 for a widening project and plan the same on La. 42.

The state Department of Environmental Quality gave preliminary approval for a $60 million low-interest loan for the system, which would dispose of treated wastewater into the Mississippi River.

In late 2010, the council selected Integra Water LLC, of Birmingham, Ala., to oversee development of a parish system but negotiations faltered in April 2011 after privately held Ascension Wastewater Treatment Co. backed out of a proposed sale to jump-start the public system.

Council members questioned Parish President Tommy Martinez on Wednesday about the engineering and land acquisition costs that parish coffers would bear. Martinez said the parish was building up a reserve to cover those costs, but some on the council expressed worry about land acquisition.

“Land acquisition is, is a major, you know, shadow there for us, and it can delay a job and when we delay, we could take the $60 million and burn 20 percent of it in delays over time,” Councilman Randy Clouatre said.