Ascension council taps GSA Consulting for regional sewer project

After several years of discussion and one false start on an aborted bid at a public-private partnership in 2011, the Ascension Parish Council will negotiate with GSA Consulting Engineers for a contract to oversee final design and construction of the first phase for a new regional sewer system.

The council voted 7-1 Wednesday to select GSA, of Gonzales, over eight other companies vying for the contract for an unincorporated part of Ascension Parish.

The parish’s engineering review committee rated GSA, which is bringing in Brown, Cunningham and Gannuch as a partner for the design work, with 437 points out of 500.

CSRS Inc. was second with 411 points and Sigma Consulting Group Inc., which would have worked with CH2M Hill, ranked third with 385 points.

CSRS and Sigma both manage parts of the federally mandated $1.4 billion sewer overhaul for East Baton Rouge’s city-parish government.

GSA is an old hand to parish contracting and the author of reports dating to the early 1990s on bringing a public sewer system to Ascension.

The firm’s engineers also authored the feasibility study that formed the basis of Ascension’s request for engineering proposals to oversee the current project.

GSA has managed long-running sewer projects for Gonzales and Donaldsonville.

Partner BCG has managed a $450 million sewer rehabilitation program in New Orleans, GSA’s proposal says.

Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee, who supported hiring GSA when the Council Utilities Committee recommended the firm Monday, opposed the amended motion for GSA.

Councilwoman Teri Casso pushed for an amendment so the council would negotiate with CSRS if negotiations with GSA broke down after an “appropriate time.”

With that amendment, Satterlee said, he had not had enough time to consider the other firms and could not yet agree to CSRS as a backup.

Councilman Benny Johnson said CSRS was being added to ensure the parish stays on schedule.

“I think it’s not necessarily something we’re wanting to do or needing to do. Just as protection to make sure we keep on the time frame of where we’re at,” said Johnson, chairman of the Council Utilities Committee.

Installation of public sewers in Ascension has been the promise of generations of parish leaders but has not gotten in the ground even as the population has ballooned. That growth and the private treatment systems built to deal with it in the absence of a public system have brought increased regulatory pressure to improve sewer infrastructure.

In December, the parish received preliminary approval for a $60 million low-interest loan through the state Department of Environmental Quality to build the first phase in northern Ascension.

Johnson said after the meeting that the parish is trying to have plans ready for construction by October or November, ahead of a December 2014 DEQ deadline to grant final loan approval.

“Hopefully we can come up with a good contract that’s good for the parish,” said Parish President Tommy Martinez. “You know it’s time to get this thing moving.”