Lafayette’s city-owned utility system has long paid for upgrades needed to bring water to the growing communities beyond the city limits.
That policy has come to an end.
The Lafayette Public Utilities Authority voted Wednesday to require the outlying community water systems that buy wholesale water from Lafayette to pay upfront for any upgrades needed for boosting capacity.
“If we have a water system that is seeing substantial growth, we are not the financiers of that water system,” said LPUA Chairman Don Bertrand.
The LPUA, made up of five members of the larger City-Parish Council, oversees the city-owned Lafayette Utilities System.
LUS sells water to six wholesale customers in Lafayette Parish: Broussard, Youngsville, Scott and three rural water systems that together serve much of the unincorporated areas of the parish.
The wholesale customers have their own water distribution systems but buy some or all of the water to feed those systems from LUS.
LUS has historically paid for the upgrades needed to boost capacity to serve those systems as they grow, with the hope the expense could be recovered in prorated increases over the life of wholesale water contracts that can stretch from 20 to 40 years.
Huval said it’s a burden LUS no longer wants to shoulder.
“LUS has been fronting the money. We’ve been the financier in moving these projects forward,” Huval said. “There is no question that the rural areas of the community and the smaller towns have seen significant growth.”
The push for a change in policy was prompted by a request last year from the Milton Water System for a 50 percent increase in the amount of water it receives from LUS — capacity needed to serve a quickly growing area in southern Lafayette Parish.
Huval said the upgrades needed to meet that request are estimated at $1.4 million.
Under the policy approved Wednesday, LUS could require the Milton Water System to pay the entire cost before any upgrades are done rather than having LUS foot the bill and hope to recoup the money over the life of the contract.
The change is sure to meet resistance.
Officials with Broussard, a major wholesale customer of LUS, already have spoken out.
“The city of Broussard is vehemently opposed to this, considering we have a contract in place and trying to introduce any new fees at this point would be a complete breach of that existing agreement,” city leaders said in a statement issued Wednesday through Broussard spokeswoman Amy Jones.
LUS contends that the wording of existing water contracts allow for tapping wholesale customers for the expense of needed upgrades.
Andy Naquin was the only LPUA member to vote against the change in policy. LPUA members Bertrand, Kenneth Boudreaux and Keith Patin voted in support. LPUA member Brandon Shelvin was absent.