Sewer rehab project hits snags

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / February 23, 2000

HAHNVILLE – The $41 million sewer system rehabilitation project, for which then-Parish President Chris Tregre pushed through a tax to finance, has hit delays which could be costly to St. Charles Parish.Director of Public Works and Wastewater Steven Fall revealed to the St.

Charles Parish Council at its meeting Monday “several problems inherited from the prior administration.”Of the eight major construction projects, Fall said, all eight had easement or permit agreements which had not been acquired as of the contract start dates. Sixty-eight of these had not been acquired as of contract date, and ofthese there were still 28 unresolved when the Albert Laque administration took office Jan. 10.The parish faces potential delay claims on all eight projects and, of the 28 unresolved agreements, 16 remained unresolved as of Monday.

Fall said a number of project deadlines have been missed, and two of the eight projects remain behind schedule. They are: The Destrehan wastewater treatment plant, to be in compliance with U.S.Environmental Protection Agency demands, was due to be completed by Nov.

30, 1999. As of Jan. 1, the plant was only 88 percent complete. The Paradis force main project was due to be 89 percent completed as of Jan. 25, but remains 15 percent behind schedule.”With the number of unresolved easements pending,” Fall told the council, “I seriously doubt we can finish these projects within the deadline dates.”He added the parish could be hit with fines totaling $27,500 per day, or $820,000 per month, until the plants are in operation.

“The parish is at fault, and the council is at fault here, too, for not pushing it,” Councilwoman Dee Abadie said. “That’s mismanagement by theadministration.”In addition, Fall said, both the Destrehan and Hahnville treatment plants were due to start up in 1999, but there is still no money in the budget for staffing, materials and service contracts for operation.

In another matter, South Louisiana Port Commissioner Joey Murray reported on current port activities and found himself quizzed on a lawsuit he has pending against St. Charles Parish.Councilman Lance Marino demanded answers as to why he and other council members were not made aware of Murzac Inc.’s suit for damages against theparish prior to Murray’s appointment to the commission.

During the Jan. 11 council meeting at which Murray was appointed,Councilman Barry Minnich was the sole vote against the port commissioner’s confirmation.

Murzac, of which Murray was a founding partner with former parish public works director Ray Davezac, was formed in 1993 as a property development company. Murzac tried to acquire property to rezone for a riverboat casinolanding.

However, the effort was blocked by then-Parish President Chris Tregre, who vetoed a council rezoning of the property from batture to a newly-created gaming district.

Suit was filed against Tregre and the parish in November 1995, and the suit remains pending.

Murray told Marino, “There are times when disputes need to be resolved and answers need to be found.” He continued that the suit “has nothing to dowith this council.”Parish attorney Robert Raymond said the Murzac suit was not made known to him by his predecessor, Randy Lewis, but he admitted the council was entitled to have known about the suit prior to Murray’s consideration for the port commissioner post.

Marino pushed that future nominees for parish appointments disclose any pending lawsuits against the parish as part of their standard disclosure forms for past criminal background. The idea will be taken up in committee.The council also recognized Kenneth and Shirley Gaubert as king and queen of the March 4 Krewe of Lul parade, Lul Grand Marshal Dorothy St. Amant,Murphy and Mittie Cortez as king and queen of the March 5 Krewe of Des Allemands parade and Des Allemands Grand Marshals Sadie Fanguy and Vivian Comardelle.

Related to the parades, Karen Bergeron of St. Charles Social Concerns urgedparade-goers to donate jars of peanut butter at the parade to stock its food pantry.

Finally, Edith Trosclair of New Sarpy urged the Parish Council to support competition for cable-TV providers and a senior-citizen rate for trash collection.

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