Gonzales won the “Best of Show” award at the Louisiana Municipal Association 2010 Community Achievement Award ceremony Aug. 6.
This year’s win, said Mayor Barney Arceneaux, was in recognition of the city’s $3.8 million water system improvement project, which included a new water tower near Cabela’s, and larger water mains “especially along Interstate 10, an area ripe for future economic development,” according to a press release from the LMA.
But the city’s win was not its first time to get the “Best of Show” designation, said Tommy Darensbourg, director of communications and education for the LMA.
Inaugurated in 2002 as the ‘Exceptional Achievement” award, Darensbourg said, Gonzales was the first-ever recipient of the award that year. The city won for a project that has transformed the atmosphere — and the smell — around Gonzales City Hall.
Those recent arrivals to Gonzales may never have guessed that Jambalaya Park, with its playground, spray ground, koi ponds, fountains and pools, was, just a decade before, was, “an antiquated, outdated, unreliable 50-year-old wastewater treatment plant,” according to the Sept. 2002 issue of the Louisiana Municipal Review.
Johnny Berthelot, who was mayor at the time the project was submitted, said stricter federal regulations on sewer treatment prompted the idea for recycling the old plant into the recreation area it became.
“Yeah, we had to stop using the old treatment plant and put in the new one,” Berthelot said.
“Instead of spending millions to take it apart and rebuild it, we reused a lot of it. Where the fountain is now, that was the old holding facility for the sewer, and the amphitheatre is where the old sand filter was,” he said.
“Even those flower pots around the park are recycled,” Berthelot said. “I can’t recall exactly what they were used for, but they were in the old plant. That old plant really was an eyesore.”
For the current mayor, the newest win shows the city’s ability to keep its infrastructure up to date.
The addition of the water tower and larger mains will mean that future growth along the I-10 corridor will have enough water pressure to comply with fire protection codes, Arceneaux said.
Entries to the LMA competition were judged by a committee of judges from Louisiana Economic Development, the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association and the LMA.