ST. FRANCISVILLE — Parish President Kenny Havard hoped to give the West Feliciana Parish Council a report Monday that would "give ourselves a pat on the back" for installing a new system to chlorinate the parish's water. But circumstances beyond the government's control would have made that move premature.
"The week that wouldn't end" resulted in damage to water lines in three locations, followed by repair work, "boil water advisories" and and flushing of lines, he said.
Last week's problems started when a contractor for AT&T broke a water line in the Lake Rosemound area. After emergency repairs, lightning struck on La. 10 east of St. Francisville and "blew a 10-inch line out of the ground," Havard said.
After crews worked all night to repair the line, the AT&T contractor "nicked" another line at Lake Rosemound, Havard said.
Havard noted that under former Parish President Kevin Couhig's administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had agreed to loan the parish $7 million for a massive water system improvement projects.
"But we couldn't afford to pay that back over 40 years," he said.
The parish should install more valves throughout the system to help reduce the impact on populated areas by broken water lines, he said.
He said he also is negotiating with a landowner in the Spillman area about taking over a water well that an oil company drilled last year for fracking water during what Havard called the parish's "three-week oil boom."
Meanwhile, dozens of parish water customers may soon be getting certified letters inviting them to sit down for a discussion about their delinquent water bills.
The Parish Council on Monday gave Havard the authority to negotiate with customers to clear up delinquent accounts and prevent them from becoming delinquent again.
Havard told the council the parish's water system has many customers who fell behind on their water bills, negotiated a payment schedule and then failed to adhere to the plan.
"We may have someone with a $300 water bill who owes $1,500 in penalties and interest. They're not going to pay that," Havard said.
His administrative assistant estimated that several hundred customers fall into that category.
By eliminating the penalty and interest charges, Havard said, he hopes "to hit the reset button" for those customers and get them paying their bills in a timely manner.
An audit report issued Monday notes that the parish's water system had a small operating deficit in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019, and the Council introduced an ordinance for discussion and action on March 9 that changes some of the water system procedures.
One change would be charging a $100 fee if a customer questions whether his water meter is properly calibrated but the meter is found to be measuring water use correctly.
The ordinance, if approved, also would add six other measures designed to close loopholes that cost the parish money in operating the water system.
In other action, the council:
- Unanimously rejected a proposed noise ordinance that outgoing member Mel Percy had proposed shortly before he left office. Councilman Kevin Dreher said the parish already has a nuisance ordinance that should suffice.
- Learned that Jim Groody took office Monday to finish Dreher's term as the parish's only justice of the peace. Groody was the only candidate who qualified for a special election for the post. To keep the position for a six-year term, he will have to run and win re-election this fall.
- Accepted an award from the Louisiana Economic Development agency for completing LED's Louisiana Development Ready Program requirements. Forty-three municipalities have earned the distinction, but West Feliciana is the first parish to earn it, which qualifies it for additional assistance in economic development endeavors.