Ascension Parish, experiencing growing pains thanks to a boom in petro-chemical expansion projects, faces pressing issues as voters go to the polls Oct. 24 to elect a new parish president, fill contested Parish Council seats and vote for assessor.
In the state’s third-fastest growing parish and one in which voters haven’t passed a new tax in 20 years, current leaders are exploring ways to provide a parishwide sewer system, looking at a possible public-private partnership to accomplish that.
Another idea floated to cope with growth: impact fees, paid by developers and others, to fund additional demands on the parish’s infrastructure.
Here, in the first of a two-part series on the Parish Council race — in which six of the 11 seats are up for grabs — incumbents and candidates for districts 1, 2 and 4 share their thoughts on the issues.
Next week, The Advocate will look at the races in districts 7, 8 and 10.
The five incumbents re-elected to their Parish Council seats without opposition are Travis Turner, District 3; Dempsey Lambert, District 5; Randy Clouatre, District 6; Todd Lambert, District 9; and Benny Johnson, District 11.
- (west bank of the parish)
Two newcomers to politics, William “Billy” Hayward III and Kerry Williams, both registered as “other party,” are challenging incumbent Oliver Joseph, a Democrat seeking his third term.
Neither of the challengers is for new taxes.
“We have to look at the waste of the money we’ve got right now,” said Hayward, a retired pipe fitter who’s now a farmer. “The parish spends too much money in studies.”
“We don’t need any new taxes,” said Williams, who describes himself as a volunteer in his community. “For the last four years, the parish has failed (to vote for) taxes.”
Joseph, who works with the Ascension Parish school district, said he’d be for a new tax if it were “fair and feasible” and would “improve economic development, bring new jobs and improve the quality of life.”
Joseph and Hayward both said impact fees can be a good idea — if the funds stay in the areas where they’re generated.
“If it’s an impact fee that goes all over the parish, I’m against it,” Joseph said.
Williams is against an impact fee.
“Our folks cannot afford it,” said Williams, who also said he opposes a public-private partnership for a sewer system.
Hayward said he would have to study the wastewater issue further, saying different areas of the parish have widely differing population numbers and situations.
Joseph is interested in looking at a solution for providing a sewer system infrastructure that “would be feasible and affordable to the public.”
“It’s not going to be free,” though, he said.
- (covers areas of both the east and west banks, including parts of Donaldsonville and all of the Pelican Point subdivision near Gonzales)
The District 2 council seat was left open for newcomers when three-term incumbent Kent Schexnaydre, other party, announced in August he wasn’t running for re-election, citing increased job demands.
The two candidates for the district, both Republicans, are William “Bill” Dawson, chairman of the Ascension Economic Development Corporation, and Philip Goppelt, a surveyor who at age 24 is one of the younger candidates on the ballot.
“We do need to see improvements in drainage and streets for future and present traffic” problems, but taxes aren’t the answer, Dawson said.
“The voters have spoken very clearly. They’re not in favor of additional taxes, and I understand,” he said. “There are ways we can be more efficient.”
“Government at many levels has lost the trust of the hardworking, taxpaying citizen,” Goppelt said. “Until that trust is established, people will feel it’s pointless to vote for new taxes.”
Dawson favors impact fees for new development.
“I don’t know what the levels would be, but I do feel that as we bring in new developments, they should help pay for infrastructure,” he said.
Goppelt favors impact fees that “would be spent where it’s collected, instead of putting it all in one pot of money.”
Neither candidate would venture an opinion on a public-private partnership for a parish sewer system until they get an actual proposal and could study the details.
- (the Prairieville area)
A longtime Ascension Parish employee, Alan “Boxcar” Braud Jr., is challenging incumbent Daniel “Doc” Satterlee, who is seeking his second term in office.
Both Republicans are against new taxes, saying the parish needs to make better of the funds it already has.
“The people are telling us we need to use existing resources,” Satterlee said.
“We’ve got to stop the wasteful spending and use the money we have in a better way. I think it needs to go back to the infrastructure of the parish,” Braud said, citing the improvement of parish roads as one place the money should go.
“We have substandard roads in our parish where two school buses can’t pass,” he said.
Satterlee said he is “absolutely for impact fees.”
“I have been fighting vigorously for that to come about,” he said.
“Why should the people here continue to pay for the people coming?” Satterlee said. “We’re one of the fastest-growing parishes in the state.”
Braud supports impact fees but says the one-time fee should be across the board, for new developers putting in subdivisions and for new homeowners building a home in an established subdivision.
“I’m in favor of impact fees, but do I think a developer coming to Ascension Parish needs to be the only one paying impact fees? No,” Braud said.
He also said monies generated by impact fees should support the infrastructure in the area where it’s collected instead of going into the general fund.
Braud also said a public-private partnership is the only solution for a parishwide sewer system.
“That’s the only way I see that you can get it built. I don’t think anybody in the parish can tell you we can come up with $500 million to $750 million,” the figures he’s heard for a wastewater system, Braud said.
He said the user fees for residents should be set by the state’s Public Service Commission.
The advantage of a public-private partnership to build a sewer system, said Satterlee, who also supports such a move, is that it would be a private company “putting up the lion’s share of the cost.”
And, he said, wastewater would be cleaned and discharged into the Mississippi River in a healthier, more environmentally friendly process than the one now, where wastewater discharged into drainage ditches ends up in local waterways, including Bayou Manchac.
“The DEQ requirements are constantly getting more stringent,” Satterlee said of the state Department of Environmental Quality. “The private company would have to figure that out.”