AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council took issue with its water district when requested to forward a $13 million bond issue for state approval, but finally agreed to hold a special meeting on the matter.
“It just looks like to me it’s a rush to judgment to do something without looking at the whole picture,” Councilman Carlo Bruno said during Monday’s council meeting.
Bruno, along with some other council members, expressed a complete lack of knowledge concerning the proposed debt.
He added that this is not the first time the Tangipahoa Water District board forwarded a bond recommendation without first informing the council.
“Last time, the same thing happened,” Bruno said. “Nobody is here from the water commission. It’s almost like they don’t want you to know what’s going on.”
Financial consultant James Ryan explained that $5 million would pay for improvements and line extensions, while the remaining $8 million would pay off an older bond debt issued through the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Ryan cited two reasons for the need to transfer debt from the USDA: imposed restrictions and interest rates.
For the water district to borrow new money, it is obligated to provide the USDA with environmental reviews and engineering reports, adding up to more costs. Also, interest rates are lower now than when the USDA bonds were issued, Ryan said.
“Now is a good time to refinance the bonds,” Ryan said.
Bruno said while he is not opposed to the proposal, he would like to include additional water projects, if possible.
Bruno said water line extensions are needed in his district, the Robertson Road area.
Councilman Bobby Cortez argued in defense of the water district board that he was aware of the bond request because it affects his council district.
“They have been speaking with me for a month,” Cortez said.
Ryan said the water district’s urgency is based on a deadline for agenda placement.
To be able to have the issue heard during the State Bond Commission’s September meeting, a request, approved by the council, must be made by Aug. 18.
Council members responded by agreeing to hold a special meeting on the bond issue request at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Tangipahoa Water District office on North Morrison Boulevard.