NEW ROADS – The Pointe Coupee Parish Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to introduce an ordinance that would bring all sewer districts under one governing board, but the proposal has already met opposition.
The council took the first step on the plan, based on a recommendation Parish President Major Thibaut brought before members in September.
The suggested shift from nine separate governing bodies to one would give the parish greater ability to address aging infrastructure and the escalating demands to keep the districts in compliance with state and federal guidelines.
The proposal will go up for discussion at the Nov. 12 meeting.
Residents from Pointe Coupee Parish Sewer District No. 1 – domiciled in the New Roads area – oppose Thibaut’s recommendation. They filled the council chamber to capacity to hear opponents speak out against the plan.
New Roads resident Joetta Joseph, who spoke on behalf of the opposition, said District 1 has operated as a self-sustaining entity for decades and can function on its own.
The district has also stepped up to the plate to help other sewer boards – including Livonia and Batchelor – during hardships.
District 1 recently paid off a 40-year bond, which proves it can operate without help from the parish.
“We’ve never asked anyone to bail us out,” Joseph said. “We didn’t need it and we believe we still stand strong today. “
Councilman Edward Bazille, who represents the area for District 1, said residents and sewer district board members worry about consolidation of all funds to one united entity.
“We know they can’t do anything with bonds already in place, but they can do whatever they want with the user fees,” he said.
Thibaut has said he worries about the districts that cannot sustain the costs to keep their systems in state and federal compliance.
The parish has already doled out $88,000 – and a total of $128,000 since 2017 – to assist the districts on compliance issues.
The compliance issues mainly involve the filing of required information to the parish, state and federal government.
Thibaut urged the council to take a proactive stand on the issue. Meanwhile, limited funds have forced district to table needed repairs or replacements to components in the respective sewer systems.
A move toward a parishwide board would also lower the cost on management and services. It would also help the parish from the purchasing standpoint, and the parish would save money if it can buy in bulk, Thibaut said.
The ultimate responsibility for proper equipment and compliance will rest on the shoulders of the entire parish, he said.
Some of the districts have dedicated millages, but consolidation would leave the parish multiple options on how to manage the system, including privatization or consolidation of districts.
A bill the state legislature approved in the 2019 session would allow Pointe Coupee Parish to assume authority on consolidation of boards through the Home Rule Charter form of government.