Duffy drilled

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2001

DEAR EDITOR: Councilman-at-Large Duaine Duffy made several statements in a letter to the editor in the May 16 issue of this newspaper, referencing myself and Council Chairman Cleveland Farlough’s plan to place a mechanical sewer plant at the Reserve Oxidation Pond site. In the late 1980s, the parish spent a substantial amount of money (approximately $1.8 million) to rehabilitate the Reserve Oxidation Pond, up to and including the outfall line on East Fifth Street, going into the river. In 1989, the parish was cited by the EPA for being out of compliance with the outfall line from the pond to the river. It cost the residents of this parish $1.5 million to reroute the sewer from the pond to the River Road Sewerage Plant in LaPlace. The rehabilitation of the pond, which has been under scrutiny by both the council and administration, was designed and placed out to bid by past council and bid was awarded to Richard Price Contracting Co., in the amount of $1,227,349 on May 11, 1999. It is reasonable to construe that figure amount has increased, due to inflationary cost since that date. The estimated cost for this project is now up to $1.5 million, so I am told. The problem here is the soil bottom cannot be excavated any deeper, due to adverse soil conditions. This resulted in the design requiring 28 floating aerators to be placed in the pond. Twenty-eight aerators means 29 motors floating out there in the open. I am not an engineer, but I can foresee maintenance, maintenance and more maintenance, keeping all these motors operating while floating in an open pond. Also, there’s the the exorbitant electricity cost we will have to endure. I suppose Mr. Duffy is inferring that a pond, at a cost of $1.5 million, is OK for now, regardless of the future maintenance cost. The estimated $3.5 million for a mechanical plant is a more practical alternative. The money is there, coming from the one-cent sales tax for parishwide sewerage, passed by the voters in the mid-1980s. There is approximately $8 million in that fund. Using $3.5 million for a mechanical plant leaves enough of a cushion in the funds for its earmarked capital projects. The inference that this is a “lack of planning” is really unfounded. Discussions on what to do with the Reserve sewer dates back to 1998, when the previous administration and council, including Councilman Duffy, approved Shread-Kuyrkendall and Associates Inc. to design a pond. No workshops, or planning for a regional plant, to my knowledge, ever surfaced then. In the meantime, President Monica engaged the services of CH2M Hill Engineers to complete a $15,000 study for a 1.5 million gallons per day mechanical plant in Reserve. He stated then he was not in favor of an oxidation pond. By the way, the estimated cost to complete that mechanical plant was more than $5.6 million. A regional plant for the whole East Bank sewer system may be a great idea, but the cost figures, I have heard, were in the $15-20 million range. How long should we have to wait in Reserve to afford this? In addition, are the taxpayers in St. John Parish ready to float another bond issue for such a cost? Already, the River Road Treatment Plant, which now accepts the Reserve sewage, is reaching capacity. If we don’t take steps to build a new facility now, then the LaPlace area may be facing a moratorium by the state Department of Environmental Quality, restricing all future tie-ins to the present system. When you add it together, $3.33 million from the past and now an additional $1.5 million, if the parish moves forward with the pond, the total would be $4.8 million spent on the pond. After all the problems the parish encountered with the pond from its inception, to rehabilitate that pond now makes no sense. It is merely a band-aid fix. My question to Mr. Duffy is: “How long the residents of this area will have to wait to have a regional plant at a cost of approximately $15-20 million, as compared to spending $4.8 million on a pond that does not work?” So, Mr. Duffy, I take issue with your comment that this a lack of logical business thinking and proper planning. It’s fiscal responsibility. Lastly, you should be embarrassed to be a member of this body, when we as a responsible government, are trying to make a positive difference and you are not in support of that.

Allen St. Pierre Councilman, District Two Reserve