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|Police jury raises sewer rates to offset deficit|
Residents serviced by West Ouachita Sewer District No. 16 will have their sewer rates increased to $30 a month following action by the Ouachita Parish Police Jury Monday.
The current rate residents of Sewer District No. 16 pay is $22.50 a month. The rate increase does not affect residents who own their own septic tanks. Only residents who currently pay a fee for sewer will be affected.
Police juror Charles Jackson brought the measure before the police jury during its regular meeting Monday. The rate adjustment passed without opposition.
"I think we need to go ahead and deal with this," Jackson said. "I hate to start raising rates, but I believe it's past due given the size of the deficit (for Sewer District No. 16) and since rates have not been adjusted in some time."
The sewer district is facing a roughly $90,000-budget deficit this year.
To bring the district to a break-even point, Jackson said the police jury would need to raise rates to about $40 per month. That amount was more than he was willing to ask for at the present time.
"I think $30 is a good start," Jackson said. "It's not enough to stop the bleeding, but it will generate some additional funds and get us close."
The police jury also agreed Monday to hire Lazenby & Associates to look into how much it would cost to tie Sewer District No. 16 into surrounding sewer districts.
"Ultimately all of them need to be linked up to provide feed stock for the Sparta project," Jackson said.
That project involves ongoing efforts to remove Graphic Packaging from the Sparta Aquifer by allowing it to use wastewater in its production process.
Treated water would be pumped into Graphic Packaging's plant in West Monroe. Graphic would use the treated water to help mitigate the 10 million gallons of water per day the plant currently draws from the Sparta.
"We've got to come up with 10 to 15 million gallons a day of treated water," Jackson said. "The city of West Monroe can provide up to seven million, and we'll have to take the rest from (sewer districts nos.) three, nine and 16."
"So we need to get them in the same configuration as No. 5 where we have a network of pipes and one big treatment station," Jackson added.
Most of the sewer districts in west Ouachita are based around subdivisions with their own treatment plants.
Sewer District No. 16 has several individual subdivisions that each have their own treatment plants. All of them need to be monitored regularly, Jackson said, so the parish has needed a contracted operator. He also said the parish must pay for the expense of maintaining the treatment plants.
"Around 2002, that contract operator managing the plants in No. 16 walked off the job, and over a period of time, most of those plants fell out of compliance," Jackson said.
Since that time, the police jury, which acts as No. 16's board of commissioners, has focused on getting the treatment plants back into compliance.
"We're talking about anywhere from six to 12 neighborhood treatment plans that have been affected (in No. 16)," Jackson said. "We've been steadily losing money, and over the last two years, as we've done repairs, we used up all the money."
If the police jury can get to the point where it can discontinue using No. 16's individual treatment plants and have its waste water treated at one, large plant, Jackson said the jury could save money on maintenance and operations of No. 16.
There are about four treatment plants around Avant and Green roads that could be shut down, Jackson said.
"Our first objective would be to get those shut down first," Jackson said.
The jury could then have pipes installed, which would tie into No. 5. Also, by adding larger pipes, that could help with capacity issues at No. 5, Jackson said.
Lazenby & Associates will determine how much it will cost to tackle the project and probably report to the police jury within a few months.