The first phase of a sewer system upgrade for the city of Gonzales is substantially complete and work on the next two phases should be moving ahead shortly, City Engineer Jackie Baumann told the City Council on Monday.

The city received a $15 million loan from the state Department of Environmental Quality in February this year to upgrade and expand its sewer system to meet future demand, particularly for new developments south of Interstate 10.

The first phase of the project is 80 percent to 90 percent done, Baumann said prior to Monday’s meeting.

The focus of the first phase has been to repair leaks in the city’s sewer lines to keep rain water out of the pipes.

Rainwater coming into the system, especially during heavy showers, can increase the volume of water treated at the city’s waste water treatment facility on La. 44 by 20 percent, Baumann has said.

Typically, the center treats about 2.5 million gallons of water daily, she said.

In the second phase of the upgrade, the city’s waste water treatment facility will be expanded so it can treat a higher volume of water.

In the third and final phase, the city will expand its sewer system south of I-10, the area that’s home to the Edenborne Development and the location of the future Conway mixed-use development.

Baumann said the second and third phases of the project should be moving ahead soon.

They were on hold in recent months, as the city’s consultant on the project, GSA Consulting Engineers of Gonzales, develops new plans that reflect increased density rates planned for apartments that will be part of the Conway development.

The density rate of an apartment complex is the number of units per acre.

In Gonzales, that number has been 10 units per acre, but the city’s new master plan, adopted in August, allows for increased multifamily densities, along with additional design standards.

“We have increased our apartment densities based on the city’s new parameters,” Prescott Bailey, area president of Southern Lifestyle Development, which is bringing the Conway development to Gonzales, said Monday by email.

“The new codes now allow for more density, which we are very excited about,” Bailey said. “We find more density allows us to build a nicer product with added amenities, since we have more units that can absorb the higher cost of those additional amenities.”

Baumann said that after the city approves new plans by its consultant, the proposal will go to DEQ for approval.

No new costs will be incurred in adjusting the plans for higher apartment densities in Conway, Baumann said.

The DEQ loan operates as a line of credit, City Clerk Clay Stafford has said, and is paid out as work is completed and invoices are submitted to DEQ.

The city, Stafford said, will repay the DEQ loan with funds generated by a half-cent sales tax voters approved in 1989 for improvement of the sewer system.