Seated from left: District three councilman Jim Kilcoyne, council clerk Sheryl Frederick, district five councilman and chairman John Salter, district two councilwoman Patsy Ward-Hoover, District one councilman and vice chairman Chris Paige, parish president John Richmond and parish attorney during Jan. 30 public hearing and special call meeting regarding Payne Subdivision sewer system. photo by staff reporter Nora Drenner
story by staff reporter Nora Drenner
The Natchitoches Parish Council has given its approval to move forward with accepting the Payne Subdivision sewer system currently owned and operated by Total Environmental Systems Inc.(TESI) Such action took place before a packed house and following lots of discussion during a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 30.
In order to receive state grant proceeds of some $735,000 to refurbish the wastewater treatment plant and lift station, the parish is required to accept, at least temporarily, the privately-owned failing sewer system. TESI is donating the system to the parish.
The strategy, noted parish president John Richmond, is for Payne Subdivision homeowners to form a sewer district to own and operate the sewer system. Once the district is formed, ownership would transfer from the parish to the sewer district.
For several years, subdivision residents have experienced sewage backups and attempts to get TESI to act have failed. The consensus of subdivision residents in attendance on Jan 30 was they desired to have the opportunity to help themselves, and the grant proceeds were the first step to that independence.
The matter has been before the parish council for several months. In Nov. 2019 the vote to accept the donation of the TESI system failed, and with no quorum of council members during the regular December meeting and subsequent special called December meeting, the matter remained on the back burner.
During the regular January 27, 2020 meeting, the matter was tabled via a three to 2 vote, with council members John Salter, James Kilcoyne and Patsy Ward-Hoover voting yes to delay the matter. Council members Chris Paige and Marty Cheatwood said no to postponing the vote.
At that time Salter said he wanted to look at the sewer system and talk to the engineer regarding the planned renovations before making a final decision. Paige expressed concern the state would pull the grant, and he noted the project was worthwhile.
Among the concerns expressed by attendees on Jan. 30 was the liability the parish would have for accepting the sewer system. Councilwoman Ward-Hoover also expressed apprehension for expensive liability to the parish in the future citing the grant dollars may not be adequate for the repairs. The opinion of the parish attorney was that if the parish took title to the TESI system, then liability could be an issue in the foreseeable future and beyond.
Also noted by naysayers was TESI should be responsible for the repairs, not the parish. Parish president Richmond noted that acceptance of the donation did not automatically release TESI from responsibility. Richmond also said the newly formed sewer district could sue TESI should it choose to do so.
Councilman Kilcoyne commented adoption of the ordinance accepting the donation by TESI only authorized the parish president to execute all documents in connection to that acceptance and upon advice from the attorney. There is still time after tonight, said Kilcoyne, for the parish to back out.
Additionally, said Kilcoyne, the parish has no plans to fund the Payne subdivision sewer system beyond the administrative costs associated with the current grant proceeds. Lastly, cited Kilcoyne, the parish is not setting a precedence by forming Payne Subdivision Sewer District #2 as Beechwood Estates Subdivision Sewer District #1 was formed several years ago. Around the Town later learned that first sewer district has remained inactive.
Following discussion, the council voted 4-0 to adopt “Ordinance 019-2019 authorizing the acceptance by the Parish of Natchitoches of a donation by Total Environmental Systems, Inc. of the Payne Sewer System to the parish and authorizing the Parish President to execute all documents in connection therewith, upon advice of the District Attorney.“ District 4 Councilman Marty Cheatwood was absent at the Jan. 30 meeting
Additional information about the January 27 regular meeting can be found elsewhere in the newspaper.