Kenner — Kenner’s comprehensive overhaul of its antiquated and dilapidated sewer system received another boost Thursday when the city accepted a $21 million loan from the state that should finance a plethora of long-needed improvements.
Mayor Mike Yenni, the Kenner City Council and state officials engaged in an extended round of back-slapping and congratulating as officials accepted an over-sized check from Peggy Hatch, the secretary of the Department of the Environmental Quality, this week. The loan, which carries a rock bottom interest rate of .95 percent, is the second loan in excess of $20 million Kenner has received from the state’s Clean Water Revolving Loan fund. Hatch praised the city for taking concrete steps to address its sewer problems, which have resulted in numerous citations from the state in the past.
“We look forward to working with Kenner throughout this whole process,” Hatch said. “It’s a very big problem within the state and across the nation.”
Like many local municipalities, Kenner has struggled with issues in every phase of wastewater treatment. The city’s pipes are crumbling, which leads to groundwater infiltration and over loads the system during heavy rains. In addition, the city needs improvements to its lift stations, sewer force mains and main wastewater treatment plant. The city has periodic sewer backups in homes during heavy rains, and Councilwoman Maria DeFranchesch related a story of a woman who once presented her with a thick file documenting all the broken promises city officials had made about the problem. Councilman Joe Stagni said Kenner had to “stop the bleeding.”
Council members said the city always wanted to fix the sewer system but lacked the funds to get it done. Chief Administrative Office Mike Quigley said the city will likely spend $80 million in total on the projects, and there was no way the city could find all that money in its own coffers.
Council Chairwoman Michele Branigan credited former Mayor Ed Muniz with getting city officials to think creatively and attack the problem in a comprehensive matter instead of remaining tied to piecemeal improvements.
“It was no way we could do it alone,” said Branigan, who also praised Councilwoman Jeannie Black and Yenni. “We’ve talked about it for a long time, but we just haven’t been able to have ideas on how to address it.
Improving the sewer system has been a goal of Black’s for more than 15 years, and she said it felt good to see progress occur.
Branigan noted that Black promised to retire once the sewer issues were addressed, and Black she might be able to keep that promise in two years.
“I’m elated,” Black said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am. So often government agencies get a bad rap, but I’m here to praise the DEQ.”
Councilman Kent Denapolis said he’s seen the benefits of the loans in his own district, where more than $3 million has been spent on improving lift stations.
Denapolis also plans to spend about $80,000 in district discretionary funds to address odor problems with a new process from a Florida-based company. He and Councilman Gregory Carroll noted that the sewer issues are a city-wide problem that needed a city-wide solution.
“We’re all in this together,” Carroll said.