East Baton Rouge City Parish is federally mandated to fix our aging sewer system by the year 2015 to prevent overflow during heavy rains. If you question some residents of the Red Stick, you will find they are consistently plagued with flooding on a regular basis. On 8/13 the Metro Council agenda included $72,553 in settlements to just 4 residents. This is a regular agenda item adding up to huge amounts paid to home owners affected by flooding due to an inadequate sewer system.
Mayor Kip Holden abandoned the deep tunnel approach to solve the sewer system problem with curtailing sewer overflow. Holden’s plan has a $1.2 billion price tag. Former Mayor Bobby Simpson and the Metro Council approved an annual 4 percent sewer fee increase that goes into effect each January. The plan was approved for a deep tunnel approach.
In January of this year, the Louisiana Home Builders Association and independent builders weighed in by challenging the city parish before Judge Kay Bates. The argument was ‘postponed’ by the Judge pending more evidence. Home Builders want fees to directly benefit property owners and have concerns that new developments are properly assessed and the burden that new developments have on the existing sewer system.
Since 1994, EBR City Parish has collected $43.5 million of which $23.1 million has been allocated for specific projects leaving $20.4 million in reserve. According to the Public Works Finance Department, fees will not adequately cover Holden’s proposed sewer improvement plan, claiming there will be a $250 to $300 million shortfall.
Shadow Mayor Walter Monsour has already approached the EPA to request a two year extension on the mandated 2015 deadline. Obviously, Monsour agrees there will be a shortfall.
How does our Mayor plan on fully funding the sewer system improvements? It’s a question we must all ask.
Now, Mayor Holden wants to impose another new tax that builds parking garages, a new jail and a barrage of other projects with no inclusion of the sewer system. In fact, Shadow Mayor Walter Monsour clearly stated that the new tax dollars have nothing to do with the sewer system upgrade.
CH2M Hill was hired by Mayor Holden to oversee the sewer project. In 2006, he agreed to pay CH2M Hill $1.8 million for six months as a management fee. They evidently will be paid nearly $20 million over the life of the project. Not without controversy, CH2M Hill also did the peer review for potential management firms. At the time, interim public works director William Daniel claimed CH2M Hill would not bid. So much for that promise. Daniel is a close ally of Holden.
Something stinks. And it’s not just the sewerage. While sugarplums dance in Mayor Holden’s head over new parking garages and upgrading the prison to house criminals, our sewer system is falling short and so is the funding. Just another example of Mayor Kip Holden’s plans down the sewer.
Until next time,
Red Stick Republican