Regional sewage plant hinges on parish funding; “Decide!” city officials say

Deidre Cruse

Plaquemine city officials, impatient both with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the parish government, laid plans last week to move ahead with a new sewer main and a new sewage treatment plant.

Whether the treatment plant will be built as a regional plant depends on whether the parish will help pay for it. The city cannot afford to pay for the multi-million project on its own, officials said.

“If they want to sit down and have a discussion, let’s sit down,” said Selectman Timothy L. Martinez, who raised the issue. “We can’t hold it up.”

The Board of Selectmen authorized its engineers, Professional Engineering Corporation, to advertise for bids on a new sewer main, despite the absence of a required U. S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to build it across the Mississippi River levee.

The $2.5 million sewer main that will carry the city’s treated sewage to the Mississippi River, instead of the more environmentally sensitive Bayou Plaquemine. Eventually, the main will be connected to the new treatment plant.

“I’ve just had enough,” Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta said of the Corps’ failure to act on the city’s permit application. “It’s time to move forward. If we a contract, we’ll build it any kind of way they tell us to build it.”

The city council unanimously called for a meeting with Plaquemine representatives on the Iberville Parish Council to discuss the construction of the new plant.

“If the parish doesn’t want to be a part of it, let’s build a plant for the City of Plaquemine,” Selectman Oscar S. Mellion said.

“We’ve been at loggerheads in every discussion we’ve had,” Selectman Ralph J. Stassi Jr. said of the stalled negotiations with the parish.

Currently, 40 percent of the sewage the city treats is from areas outside the city limits. The city loses money on the service every year. City officials, however, have pledged Plaquemine’s portion of the new one-cent parishwide sales tax toward sewerage improvements.

A long-range parish plan calls for a regional sewage treatment plant in the Plaquemine area, since the city already is in the business.

Mayor Gulotta said the city does not have any current contracts with the parish to handle sewage from parish sewer districts 1 and 2. He said he thought the city has an obligation to provide service to District 1, the Dupont Annex area that has been part of the city for 30 years.

Stassi said he didn’t think the city council should move without talking to officials at River West Medical Center, who could be served by a regional plant.

”I feel like the plant should be a regional plant,” the mayor said. “Whether the city can afford to build a regional plant without the parish, the answer is no.”

Like the hospital, Gulotta said, “Plaquemine High School has to have treated sewer. How they’ve got by for as long as they have, I don’t know.”

It is time for a decision, Martinez insisted, who moved to seek the meeting.

“I don’t want to be sitting here next January talking about the same thing,” he said. “We’ve got to move. We cannot afford a regional plant without the parish.