St. John sewer plant site still to be decided

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — There was no recommendation for a location to put a regional sewer plant at the St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting Tuesday night, but work is still in progress and answers are to be presented by the next meeting on July 12 in Edgard.

At the council meeting on June 14 Councilman Ronnie Smith asked Parish President Nickie Monica to come up with a recommended site to construct a regional sewer plant in two weeks.

“Do you have a solution?” Smith said. “It’s been two weeks.”

Monica responded, “Not yet.”

In Monica’s defense Parish Engineer C.J. Savoie took the floor and explained why there was no answer.

“He doesn’t have an answer, because we are still stuck on the site at Dupont, because it is still the best location,” Savoie said. “The power-point showed other locations, but they cost a lot more money. The council doesn’t want to spend that much more money. Two weeks is just not enough time to make a big decision like this.”

Councilman Cleveland Farlough said Dupont wasn’t available anymore and he doesn’t want to hear it mentioned anymore.

“We have been looking at Dupont for two years,” Smith said. “It cannot happen, so if we don’t do something else as soon as possible, it will be two more years of going through this.”

Smith suggested the council move forward by choosing the Pond South site in Reserve.

Savoie added they couldn’t do anything without finding out if that land is even available and if the Parish could afford it.

Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard said by the next meeting they need to have that information, because it is critical for making a decision.

Savoie said the DHH demanded a solution to this problem within two weeks, because of complaints from residents.

“We ask for a recommendation and we get, not this time,” shouted Councilman Dale Wolfe. “When, Nickie?”

“We talk, talk, talk,” said Council Chairman Joel McTopy. “But we don’t get done, done, done.”

Monica later explained that he has been working on this problem since he cam into office.

“I presented a short-term and a long-term solution to the council in 2000,” Monica said. “I was given permission by the council to use $500,000 to investigate the infiltration systems in Reserve, because that is where most of the problems were. We tested it and we are committed to fixing it.”

The Parish spent $1.5 million and eliminated 80 percent of the infiltration problems and 50 percent of two streets in Reserve, according to Monica.

“After we alleviated those problems we got another $500,000 to alleviate more areas in Reserve,” Monica said. “We decided we needed a regional sewer plant and received $200,000 from Washington to do a study on a location for the plant.”

Monica said they came up with a perfect site involving land purchase from Dupont.

“After the study, it came time to buy land from Dupont,” he said. “But a group of residents from a nearby area got together and convinced the council that it was not a good idea.”

Monica said the Parish also received $250,000 from the Lake Ponchartrain Basin Foundation to correct the problems with infiltration in LaPlace.

“It took us three years to get to this point,” he said. “I didn’t want to make such a big decision on this in such little time on a project that will cost three more million dollars than the previous chosen site. Planning takes time and funding to do it takes time, but I am committed to this problem and I have been since I came in to office in 2000.”

The Parish has already spent $2 million in Reserve, $700,000 in Garyville and just received another $500,000 to continue fixing these problems, according to Monica.

“We work hard every day to alleviate the sewer problems,” he said. “I stand up for my administration, because we do respond to these problems and it is not right to be accused of not responding. We pay for people to answer the 911 calls on nights and weekends for different sewer situations and have people on hand to help and investigate every complaint.”

Monica said he has presented these problems in front of the council three different times and will not be accused of not doing his job.

“We pay a lot of money for engineers to be the experts and advise me and the council in coming up with a location for a regional sewer plant,” he said. “Now we have been mandated by the DHH to get a solution. We have been reviewing all the possible sites, and we continue to work hard on this everyday.”

Monica said 98 percent of the people don’t have a sewer problem, but realize the best location would have been at Dupont.

“A small group of people made a decision for the whole Parish,” he said. “We have a Parish-wide sewage facility, you will have problems with a facility that large. Dupont was the most logical and feasible location.”

Monica said residents of St. John Parish owns and pays for the sewer plant and he manages it.

“When they report us, they are reporting themselves,” he said. “We are all in this together.”

Monica said the Parish has been working diligently on this problem and has documentation to prove it.