City hopes to banish blinking lights

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

Work was scheduled to begin work this week installing monitoring equipment to help Plaquemine City Light and Water track down the source of electrical problems and solve them, Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta said.

Eventually, the $50,000 worth of new equipment could be transferred to a new electrical substation that is in the works.

Speaking to the Board of Selectmen last week, Gulotta reported promising negotiations with Entergy for the new substation to tie onto the company's more reliable 130,000-kilowatt transmission line.

“We've been having trouble with blinks,” the mayor said.

Plaquemine buys its electricity through the Louisiana Electrical and Power Association (LEPA), but supplies are shipped over Entergy's transmission lines.

Gulotta said the city now receives its electricity over a 69,000-kilowatt transmission line at a point north of the city. He met earlier this month with Entergy representatives to discuss tying into the larger line. The 130,000kw line ties into a large Entergy substation near Wal-Mart, he said.

“It's a closer station to us,” the mayor said. “It's more reliable.”

The city is ready to go into the design phase for its own new substation and needs a decision on which Entergy line to use, Gulotta said.

In action last week, the city council unanimously agreed to sign on to the design phase of a new power plant in Morgan City. LEPA is looking at the possibility of building its own efficient modern generating facility there to assure long-term supplies.

“If we don't get in now, we can't get in the future,” Gulotta said. “In the future, we can decide that's not the way we want to go.”

For more than a year, the city council has been working on a contract for lower cost electrical supplies with the private company NRG.

NRG, however, has to secure a contract to use Entergy's transmission lines before the deal with the city can go through. If Entergy refused the service, the city would continue to contract for its supplies with LEPA, which already has a transmission agreement with Entergy.

In other business, the city council began to discuss adopting an ordinance to prohibit anyone from parking hazardous or other waste on city streets.

Mayor Gulotta said the city has received complaints from north Plaquemine residents about trucks containing wastes parked on a commercial lot on Joseph Street at the La. 1 service road.

City Attorney L. Phillip Canova Jr. said the state has jurisdiction over hazardous waste on commercial property.

“We don't control hazardous wastes. We control what they do on the streets,” Canova advised the council. “...On private property, the state would control.”

Plaquemine Police Capt. Kenneth Payne said trucks carrying hazardous wastes have to be on a designated route and have to be offloaded before they go to a neighborhood site. Payne said the city police could enforce the law, but members of the small department are not educated in hazardous materials.

“The question is: Is it in violation of the motor carrier safety law?” Payne said. “The city police are not as familiar with hazardous materials as we need to be to enforce it.”

Police Chief Orian Gulotta said he would ask a State Police representative to attend next Tuesday's city council meeting to advise the city.

City officials also complained that a city contractor had not finished replacing concrete curbs around St. John School before school started last week.

“It's a mess over there,” said Selectman Timothy L. Martinez, who represents the area. “That's going to be a problem.”

Tony Arikol of Professional Engineering Consultants (PEC) said both he and the mayor had impressed on the contractor the importance of finishing the work before the start of school.

“We're asking people to be patient,” the mayor said.

“We are not just resurfacing roads. We're rebuilding roads,” he said. “We're doing a rebuild on 30 miles of city roads. We're just getting started on this.”

He said the road program likely would not be completed before next August.