DONALDSONVILLE — From one point of view, the City Council and Mayor Leroy Sullivan could be said to be taking a "what have you done for me lately" approach to an ongoing land negotiation with the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District.
From another view, the city fathers are just protecting the public fisc by holding out for the best possible price for city-owned land on the Mississippi River batture.
The water district has been trying to acquire the city's 3.19 acres of riverside property to build a new pump station in Donaldsonville.
What city officials made clear in a nonvoting meeting Friday is that they want the full appraised price for the land of $120,000, despite the district's desire for a less costly deal or even a donation of the land.
"We're not playing hard ball. We're just looking for a fair price, fair market value," Council Chairman Raymond Aucoin said.
From an existing pump station on the Mississippi in Donaldsonville, the district already sends Mississippi River water down Bayou Lafourche, an important drinking water source for hundreds of thousands of people in communities downstream and a key to wetland health in the region.
But the district has been working on plans for a $65 million expansion to increase water flow after major dredging and railroad bridge projects on the bayou opened up so more river water pumped into the waterway.
After initially raising the idea of having the city donate the batture land, the district agreed to pay for an appraisal by a firm selected by the city, city officials said.
Aucoin said district officials had at one point wanted the city to agree to sell the land for the appraised price before the figure was developed. He said the city wanted to wait and see what that number was first.
When the appraisal came back, however, water district officials felt the $120,000 price was "extremely favorable" to the city, according a March 29 district letter to the city.
In that letter, Ben Malbrough, executive director of the water district, detailed his efforts to improve relations between the city and the district and noted the millions of dollars in work the district has done or plans to do in Donaldsonville or on the bayou to benefit of the city.
Those plans include a finished $5 million upgrade to a railroad bridge that had previously hindered drainage in the bayou and $1.42 million in planned drainage improvements in the city itself, for which the district is putting up a match of more than $650,000.
"As stated earlier and demonstrated by the projects listed above, (the water district) feels that the donation of the 3.19 acres of batture property in question would be justified by the City," Malbrough wrote.
"In the spirit of comprise, we would like to make a formal offer to purchase the property from the City for $40,000."
The council members weren't biting, noting that the projects Malbrough listed benefit the pump station expansion, too.
"He's got to do that in order for this project to work," Councilman Reginald Francis Sr. said in an interview. "He's not doing that for the city. It's got to be done."
Malbrough didn't return a message for comment Friday to his cellphone.
The council meets again next week to discuss the land.