GONZALES — Ascension Parish residents will not vote on an up to $60 million bond issue parish government has been preparing for more than a year to build the beginnings of a regional sewer system in Prairieville.
The Parish Council avoided the possibility of a required election when no one petitioned by last week’s deadline.
Under state law, if at least 5 percent of the electors in the parish’s last election had petitioned the council in opposition to the bond issue, they could have forced an election.
Parish and State Bond Commission officials said the provision is a standard part of the process in seeking bonds when they are backed with existing taxes, instead of a new tax, which requires an election. Also, general obligation bonds secured with unlimited property taxes also require tax elections.
Lela Folse, director of the State Bond Commission, said it is rare for the petition process to force an election.
“I have not seen it happen very often,” she said in a recent interview.
As part of the parish budget adopted in the fall, the Parish Council had already agreed to secure the future bonds, which are for a low-interest loan, with $3.3 million a year from the parish’s existing 1-cent sales tax.
The future sewer service area would include businesses on Airline Highway north of La. 42 and homes and businesses along sections of La. 42 and La. 73.
No one spoke or presented a petition seeking an election during the required hearing Sept. 18 at the Parish Council meeting in Gonzales. The council also took the first steps to adopt ordinances required for the issue, and they are slated for final approval in October.
It’s not unusual for parish government to issue bonds supported with the existing tax base, but the sewer bonds will be one of the larger issues in recent parish history.
In late 2007, the East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District approved a $65 million bond issue tied to the district’s existing half-cent sales tax and 5-mill property tax.
That issue, which is for 40 years and also did not require an election, has paid for major capital upgrades, including the sixth pump at the Marvin J. Braud Pumping Station and the nearly completed Henderson Bayou floodgate and pumps.
The planned sewer bonds are coming through a loan from the state Department of Environmental Quality under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The loan would be paid back over 22 years, with the first two years being interest-only payments, parish officials said.
Parish President Tommy Martinez said Tuesday that the administration is proposing that the Parish Council consider breaking up the loan into two phases of about $30 million each.
He said the administration is negotiating with Mo-Dad Utilities to buy its sewer systems in Ascension, which would bring 1,700 customers to the future parish sewer system, including those in Southwood Village subdivision.
Martinez said once the bond ordinances are adopted next month, the sewer loan will go before the State Bond Commission. He said the parish expects to close on the loan in August 2015.
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