Recently after the Ascension Parish government purchased the old popular water service four years ago, parish officials complained that old and inaccurate meters were likely compromising system revenues. of Donaldsonville Utilities.

Aging meters underestimated water use and thus kept bills artificially low, parish officials said. The administrations of former parish president Kenny Matassa and now first-year president Clint Cointment have argued that new meters could immediately boost revenues, perhaps by as much as 20% to 25% according to some technical estimates.

Parish Utilities of Ascension, the successor utility from Peoples Water, will soon be testing this idea.

A batch of 40 new meters will begin to be installed from December 14, officials of the parish announced.

The future of a stalled initiative by the Matassa administration to secure a $ 17.5 million loan and grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development to modernize the older water supply system may depend on the benefit that these meters actually provide.

John Diez, director general of the parish government, recently told the parish council that all 40 meters should be installed by December 18 and that another 150 meters are being purchased so that they can be installed by December 18. first quarter of 2021.

Once in place, the 190 meters would serve only a small fraction of the more than 3,400 customers in Parish Utilities’ network, but would give the administration a random sample to see how much new revenue is being generated.

“The aim was to test the accuracy of the engineers’ numbers on what they would actually save us,” he said. “And so the whole point is to spend the next year replacing the meters, if the numbers work, so that we can generate enough income to fund the loan from the Ministry of Agriculture.”

Homes and businesses in the Donaldsonville-area network have been paying higher rates imposed by the Matassa administration since June 2019, though the full 39% residential increase did not take effect until January.

But Cointment officials say the higher fees were not enough to pay for the system, let alone fund the USDA deal that the Matassa administration had promised they would do.

DONALDSONVILLE – Residents of the city expressed concerns on Tuesday about the effect of a proposed 39% increase in residential water rates in the west …

The Cointment administration suspended the deal to assess the system’s finances, but the ever-higher rates have left West Bank officials and their council representatives, Advisers Alvin “Coach” Thomas Jr. and Joel Robert, in a hurry to to act.

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The parish utility system has required regular support from general parish dollars since the parish purchased it in the fall of 2016.

Since the start of 2017, the parish’s general purpose sales tax fund has injected $ 1.5 million, with an additional $ 200,000 set aside for 2021, according to budget documents.

Under the USDA offer, Parish Utilities cannot touch the grant dollars until it has spent the entire $ 9.7 million loan, which will require payments of annual debt of $ 375,000 over 40 years.

Diez and other officials say they want to see if new meters can make up the difference and open the door for the grant and loan to continue in 2022. The USDA has already granted it to the parish.

During the council meeting on December 3, Robert asked Diez and Ken Dawson, director of the parish infrastructure division, if the parish would install new meters for the entire system, no matter how many new meters. would increase income.

Dawson acknowledged that once the 190-meter sample was installed, the parish would immediately order and install meters for the rest of the system.

“But the total amount then? Robert asked.

“Yes, the goal is to order the full amount” of yards, said Dawson.

“That’s the answer I needed. Okay. Thank you, sir,” Robert said.

For more than a year, the 3,400 Ascension Parish government water customers in the city of Donaldsonville have been paying higher rates for…

The USDA money is supposed to pay for 21 miles of new distribution lines, water plant upgrades and all new meters, which the parish now plans to do in-house.

Thomas said that while he is happy to see the meters replaced, he would like the other upgrades to happen as well.

“I hope that we can progress quickly,” he said.