Sewer system repair discussion not cut and dry

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / September 3, 2000

RESERVE – Who would have thought that trying to fix a sewer system would cause such a ruckus? That’s what happened when councilman Allen St. Pierre made a motion toadvertise for bids to analyze, study and propose repairs to the antiquated sewer system in Reserve.

St. Pierre said the Reserve system was made up of a lot of terra cotta pipesput in in the sixties. As a result, there is breakage and problems.”It’s an old system,” said St. Pierre, “and I get a lot of complaints about it.”However, Ranney Wilson reminded the St. John the Baptist Parish Councilduring discussion of the issue there was no need to advertise for bids because the parish already had a contract with URS Grenier Corp. to map andfix the entire parish system. The contract was signed in 1998 under theArnold Labat administration.

Michael Paterno, project engineer for URS Grenier, confirmed this and said this was all part of a three-phase project on the entire St. John Parish sewersystem.

The first phase is to map out the entire sewer system. Secondly, URS willevaluate the mapping and suggest a repair strategy, and finally, the repairs will commence. Parishwide, the project will cost $1.4 million. Just in theReserve area the study will cost $400,000, and that is what is making some councilmen balk at giving the go-ahead to URS.

Cleveland Farlough asked Parish President Nickie Monica, “You don’t feel the price is a bit exorbitant?” Monica replied, “It is in line with other systems.”This was confirmed by Charles Savoie, parish engineer, who told the council, “The normal fee for this is $2 a foot, or about $340,000 to clean and test the Reserve system. Analysis will cost a bit more.”Monica said the Reserve system is in the worst shape and needs the quickest attention.

“It is 30 years old and needs repair,” said Monica.

Director of public works Henry DiFranco said a lot of the problems with the Reserve sewer system have to do with infiltration and leakage.

The infiltration happens when it rains and water run-off leaks into the system, causing the already over-taxed sewerage plants to work even harder to get rid of the extra water.

This summer, though, the problem is different. Because of the recentdrought the ground surrounding the sewer pipes has shifted, causing the pipes to break and leak.

“Reserve is the most in need of repair,” said Duaine Duffy, “and our capacity to handle sewerage in the parish is being used up.”St. Pierre was not pleased with the news of the URS contract.”I remember a workshop with URS Grenier, and nothing was ever said about a contract,” St. Pierre said. “All of a sudden a contract appears. Well let’s beconsistent and put the contract out for bid.”Duffy remarked, “It is naive to think we don’t have a contract. Besides,” hecontinued, “all our contracts have a 30-day cancel clause. Let the councilcancel the contract and go out for bids. If that is the way they want to do it,go ahead.”Dale Wolfe reminded the council that Job Boucvalt had also suggested getting bids on the job at the last parish council meeting.

“I don’t have any problem with waiting a month for bids,” said Wolfe.

Farlough was worried the issue was causing division within the council.

“I think we have come to an impasse,” Farlough said, “The unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, and this is not good for the parish. But I amstill worried that we are paying too much for this service.”Monica and DiFranco have assured the council the money is there to do the sewer study.

“This will be paid for by Road Development Money,” said Monica.

DiFranco added, “We have dedicated funds from a 1 cent sales tax that are earmarked just for the sewer.”However, when it came time to vote, St. Pierre’s motion failed because of a4-4 tie with Lester Rainey abstaining. St. Pierre, Boucvalt, Wolfe and MelissaFaucheux voted for the motion.

Rainey said he abstained in the hopes of bringing the council and the administration together.

“I am hoping that Mr. St. Pierre and the administration can get together andwork this out, ” said Rainey. “I hope they can come up with a workable planthat everybody can go along with.”Monica didn’t seem to be in such a conciliatory mood.

“I’m telling the council to either cancel the URS contract and get bids, or else go ahead with the contract,” Monica said. “I just want them to know that wehave the money.”

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