Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez will seek Parish Council backing Thursday to offer to buy Peoples Water Service Co. of Donaldsonville, which for years has provided water to the west bank city.
If successful, the purchase is expected to bolster the finances of a parish water system that serves about 700 customers on the outskirts of Donaldsonville in unincorporated Ascension. That public system is known as Ascension Consolidated Utilities District No. 1.
“The bottom line is, there is not enough room over there for two water companies, and something’s got to give,” Martinez said Tuesday.
The council’s secretary issued special meeting agendas Tuesday for two committees to consider authorizing the offer. The utilities and finance committees meet at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Parish Courthouse Annex, 828 S. Irma Blvd., Gonzales.
Councilman Benny Johnson, chairman of the Utilities Committee, said owning water and sewer tends to help the administration of both systems. Johnson’s committee has spearheaded efforts to create a regional parish sewer system but has run into many hurdles.
Martinez said if the two committees back the plan, the matter would go before the full council, which meets at 6 p.m. in the same place.
Martinez said Peoples Water has about 3,000 customers. He said he is seeking authorization to offer up to $5 million.
A call to Peoples Water was not returned by deadline Tuesday.
Martinez said the parish and the company have been talking quietly for the past few years. He said the company approached the parish a few years ago seeking an offer, but they could not agree on a price. He said the parish is making another try.
One of Louisiana’s fastest-growing parishes since the 1990s, unincorporated Ascension did not have public infrastructure to provide water and sewer to all those new homes. A patchwork of private sewer and water companies rose to meet the demand.
Under Martinez’s last two terms, the parish has tried to buy at least two sewer companies as they faced regulatory pressure to upgrade their systems. Both companies rejected the offers and received rate increases through the Louisiana Public Service Commission to pay for the upgrades.
The parish provides water to a small number of customers on the east and west banks. Two private companies dominate: Peoples Water on the west bank and Ascension Water Co., a Baton Rouge Water Co. subsidiary, on the east bank.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.