Metairie sewer project to begin

After nearly two decades of delay, a sewerage project that would eliminate the last bastion of septic tanks on the east bank of Jefferson Parish will begin within weeks.

Jefferson Parish officials are finalizing plans to install municipal sewer lines and connection to a handful of businesses on Power Boulevard, Chetta Drive and Lisa Drive in Metairie. Those businesses have been using septic tanks for decades because municipal sewer connections were not installed on the property when it was first developed.

Jefferson Parish Councilman E. Ben Zahn III is spearheading the project and has been moving it forward all year. The council voted in October to award the $700,000 project to Subterranean Construction LLC, and work is expected to begin in January. The project is expected to take about seven months to complete.

Zahn called the construction long overdue. Politicians and residents have discussed adding sewer connections to the roughly 30 to 40 businesses in the area since the land was developed 30 years ago, although formal plans weren’t discussed until 1995.

However for a variety of reasons the project floundered, and Zahn said he was shocked to find that there were businesses on the east bank still using septic tanks when he took office in January. That area includes major businesses like Big Lots and Wendy’s, along with several smaller companies on surrounding streets. Zahn said he made it a priority to get the project moving, and things are finally coming together.

“I’m making sure we’re going to some light at the end of the tunnel for these people,” Zahn said.

However, because the project involves making connections to private property, much of the cost will be paid for by the local property owners. Property owners will pay between $250-$350 per square foot of frontage on parish streets. In addition, the parish has about $200,000 socked away for the project by former councilmen John Lavarine and Ed Muniz. One of the reasons the project was delayed was because it took some time to persuade more than 50 percent of the property owners to agree to the required property tax assessment.

Larry Pickering, the owner of Pick’s Paint on Chetta Drive, said the parish should have made the changes 30 years ago at its own expense because parish regulations shouldn’t have allowed land to be developed without sewer connections. In addition, if the parish wanted residents to pay, they should have moved more quickly when the assessment would have been a fraction of what it is now.

But Pickering said that even though he doesn’t think the project has been handled correctly, he’s still glad to see it finally take place.

His business has been in the area for more than 20 years, and he said it’s always seemed strange that one little pocket of Jefferson Parish had to use septic tanks.

In fact, he said the nearby Wendy’s had to install its own personal lift station when it came to the area.

“Why this was delayed back here with no sewerage and drainage is beyond me,” said Pickering, who noted that businesses still haven’t been told their final costs for the project. “If they’d done this back when they first said they would do it, it would cost us a whole lot less money. … I wish it would have been done 10 years ago.”

Zahn acknowledged that the delay has been disgraceful but said business owners can take comfort in the fact that they are finally moving into the 21st century.

“I can’t answer why it’s taken so long; I can just say it’s shameful that it’s taken so long,” Zahn said.