Water rate increase expected
Question remains: Who will foot the bill?
Michael Luke -
May 11, 2006
At its May 15 meeting, the parish council will decide whether to increase the rates of water users in St. Charles Parish. If approved, the rate increase will pay for a $25 million plan to upgrade water treatment facilities on the east and west bank.
Several projects are desperately needed to upgrade water facilities on the east and west bank, especially upgrading the east bank's water treatment capacity.
Capacity on the east bank has been stretched to the limit several times post-Katrina, especially with the drastically increased population.
Also in the project is a connection between east and west bank underneath the Mississippi River. The connection would serve as a safety net should the east bank's Plant C fail. Plant C produces over half of the east bankís water and is in need of a massive overhaul.
If the plan endorsed by Project Engineer Rick Shread of Shread-Kuyrkendall and Associates at a special meeting of the parish council passes, large industry and other heavy users of water would pay most of the rate increase. According to the plan, only users of over 6,000 gallons per month would feel the rate increase.
"My gut tells me it is going to pass," said Department of Waterworks Director Robert Brou, adding, "If it doesn't, we are in trouble." Brou believes that the upgrade must be moved along as failure of C Plant on the east bank is imminent.
If heavy consumers take most of the burden, Brou said 61.9 percent of the residents would not see an increase to their bill. He said that on average most parish households use about 5000 gallons. Those that use between 6,000 and 10,000 comprise 29.2 percent and 8.9 percent of users consume over 10,000 gallons a month.
Under the plan Shread endorsed, 6,000 to 10,000 gallon a month users would see an increase from $2.22 to $4, and 10,000 plus users would see a rate increase up to $7.12 per 1000 gallons.
The heavy users who will potentially feel the biggest hit are Entergy, Valero Refining, Shell, Argus and Bunge North America. These five companies comprised almost a quarter of total parish consumption. As Valero used 146.1 million gallons in 2005, a rate increase could cost the refiner an additional $20,000 a month.
No industry spokesperson for any of the top users in the parish would comment on the rate increase.
The upgrade will have several parts, including a $2.4 million sub-aqueous Mississippi River crossing, $13 million east bank water treatment plant, $2.3 million west bank filter bank upgrade and $1.6 million west bank storage tank. The proposed grand total of these projects near $25 million.
During the councilís special water session, several other plans were proposed, including raising the rates of all users from $2.22 to $3.45 per 1000 gallons, a fixed rate of $16.77 for all users and several ad valorem tax increases.