Cities agree to tentative settlement
LAFAYETTE — Leaders in Lafayette and Broussard have reached a tentative deal to settle a nearly two-year legal battle over allegations that Broussard used millions of gallons of wholesale water from its larger neighbor without paying for it.
A proposed settlement made public Monday calls on Lafayette to refund about $275,000 of an $825,587 water bill that Broussard had paid to Lafayette under protest and puts in place more specific guidelines for connections between the Broussard and Lafayette water systems.
“As a result of the agreements reached in mediation, we made significant strides to ensure that this type of incident does not occur in the future,” Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said in a written statement. “I would like to thank (Broussard) Mayor Charles Langlinais for his efforts to put this chapter behind us, and look forward to forging a mutually beneficial working relationship as we grow Lafayette Parish together.”
Broussard’s water wells do not produce enough water to serve the entire city, so Broussard relies on wholesale water purchased from Lafayette Utilities System, which is owned by the city of Lafayette.
LUS officials alleged in September 2011 that a bypassed meter on a wholesale water connection had allowed millions of gallons of water to flow undetected from LUS lines into Broussard’s water system, meaning the smaller city was reselling water that it was receiving for free for about five years.
Broussard officials had said they were not aware of the bypassed meter.
The smaller city paid an $825,587 bill from LUS under protest but then sued to recover much of that payment, arguing that LUS had overestimated the amount of water.
The final water bill agreed to in the tentative settlement is $550,000, and Broussard would receive a credit or refund of $275,587.
Lafayette had responded to Broussard’s lawsuit with a push to void the wholesale contract with Broussard, a move that could have left Broussard searching for new sources of water.
The proposed settlement, which still must be approved by the Broussard City Council and the Lafayette City-Parish Council, would keep the water contract in place for at least seven more years.
“This resolution will allow us to return our focus to continuing to build our cities and this parish,” Broussard officials said in a statement released by city spokeswoman Amy Jones. “Working together, we can and will secure new industries and create new jobs to make us even more competitive in the global economy. We will move forward as neighbors with the goal to make Lafayette Parish the best location to live, work and raise a family in this state.”
The Broussard City Council has called a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the proposed settlement.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is scheduled to introduce the settlement on Tuesday and take a final vote on Aug. 20.
The proposed settlement grew out of negotiations between the two cities that began in July. The water lawsuit was one of two lingering disputes that had soured relations between the two cities.
The other involved Broussard’s legal challenge to Lafayette’s annexation or about 200 acres along Ambassador Caffery Parkway in southern Lafayette Parish.
That lawsuit was settled in June with an agreement in which Broussard dropped its challenge to the annexation in return for Lafayette carving out a small tract that Broussard had sought.
Broussard also gave up its right to challenge future annexations by Lafayette in some areas along the new southern stretch of Ambassador Caffery Parkway.