St. James increases some utility fees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011



CONVENT– Utility tapping fees, hospital funding, building codes and a new security camera purchase highlighted a busy St. James Parish Council meeting in Convent Wednesday.

The council voted to approve an ordinance to amend fees charged to residents and businesses for connecting and tapping water and natural gas.

The ordinance amends tapping fees, connection charges for water and natural gas service and deposit charges for water meter connections. Tapping fees for natural gas will jump from $250 to $325, and connection charges will jump from $20 to $50.

The ordinance also adds a deposit charge of $300 for 3-inch pipe water meters, while lowering some charges for water tapping fees. Basic water meter connections will also increase from $20 to $50.

Parish President Dale Hymel has said that the changes are necessary because the parish is switching to a new, easier to read meter that is slightly more expensive than the older model, but more cost effective

“We are trying to cover the costs of the new meter through the fees since it is the department’s only source of revenue,” Hymel said. “The utilities department collects no sales taxes or millages for its operations.”

The council also voted to approve the issuance of $2.5 million in limited tax certificates to help fund construction of a $15,000-square-foot medical office complex adjacent to the existing St. James Hospital building. A portion of the money will also go to the addition of new beds for the hospital.

Melissa Wilkins, St. James Parish spokesperson, said that the council was informed prior to the vote that the sale of the certificates was awarded to Capital One with an interest rate of 3.81 percent for six years. Wilkins said the funds, which will become available May 17, will supplement an existing surplus the hospital is using for the project. She said the hospital is responsible for paying the debt incurred by the tax certificates.

In other action from the meeting, the council voted to approve a resolution to renew a three-year cooperative agreement with South Central Planning and Development Commission regarding the parishwide monitoring of statewide uniform building codes. The Houma firm will continue to be responsible for the implementing and administering of the codes for new and existing construction in the parish.

The council also accepted a low bid of $56,698 from ICU Security Group of Scottsdale, Ariz., for the purchase of a thermal security camera for a crude oil storage facility in the parish. Wilkins said the camera would be purchased through a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security