Bossier Watch – Citizen Multimedia

Watching the Sewer Watchers

Not only does Bossier Parish have some fresh water issues after the polar vortex, but there are ongoing sewage issues as well. In the case of the brown water though, it is financial. Did you know that for nearly a decade, ALL the residents under the taxing authority of Bossier Parish have been subsidizing the Consolidated Waterworks/Sewerage District No. 1 of the Parish of Bossier (CWSD1)? It is not the household consumers fault though. Several people did not run the math.

According to the LDEQ (Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality) at the time, some of the existing sewer systems from Princeton to the Louisiana Downs area were not up to par. LDEQ had threatened to stop development and growth in that area. With the anticipation of Dogwood subdivision expanding, the treatment plant originally built by Mr. Logan was determined to be expandable and upgradeable for the entire area. The Bossier Parish Police Jury under the CWSD1 worked out a deal to take over that treatment plant.

To get the system up and running back in the 2004-2010 timeframe, the Bossier Parish Police Jury (BPPJ) expected to receive approximately $2,490,000 in capital outlay funds from the state and agreed to advance the proceeds of a loan of $5,000,000, based on bond sales, to the CWSD1 for the purchase of existing systems in the area. The district was anticipated to pay back those proceeds after its own round of financing. Also, a $17,750,00 loan from the LDEQ to the BPPJ could only be used for planning and construction of the sewer system.

Around 4500 households were expected to come onboard with the new sewer system paying $42.50 per month. The loan from the LDEQ was based on that number. However, quite a few of the potential customers were on existing septic systems and chose not to pay to join the new sewer system. To make matters worse, the $42.50 household estimate only included the loan from LDEQ – not the “loan” from the BPPJ. The sewer district was in a financially losing situation from the get-go.

In 2010, then jury member Barry Butler and Parish Engineer Butch Ford came up with a new estimate that the Dogwood residents would see a bill in the $55-60 range. As a matter of fact, Barry Butler reported that to the Republican Women of Bossier at a summer of 2010 meeting. Police Juror Glenn Benton expressed his concern over Barry’s figures as reflected in the minutes of the BPPJ from June 2, 2010:

“Mr. Benton expressed concern over a comment that Mr. Butler recently made in a public speech concerning the Consolidated Waterworks/Sewerage District No. 1 of Bossier Parish. Mr. Benton asked that in the future, Mr. Butler be certain that he conveys accurate facts and figures when speaking to the public.

Mr. Butler stated that he received his information from the Parish Engineer, and expressed concern that the cost of the sewer district may be more than originally approved. He stated that he is also concerned that the police jury is moving too quickly on this project. Mr. Benton stated that in order to obtain the low interest funding, the jury must move quickly to meet deadlines required to secure these funds.”

Around 2011 the problem expanded with the addition of the sewer treatment plant on the Red River. As a matter of fact, the original $5,000,000 bond (loan) proceeds from 2010 are now listed (per the 2011 Financial Statement) as an $11,835,000 2012 Bond. The cost of acquiring and operating the new systems was far higher than expected. Plus, the sewage has to be pumped between 7-8 miles from the “Dogwood Plant” to the new plant on the Red River. That one happens to be upstream from the freshwater intake, by the way, although the discharged water is supposed to be very clean.

Why should all Bossier Parish residents and taxpayers be alarmed and paying attention? It is simple: your tax dollars are subsidizing a sewer district that you probably are not using. The rates should have been increased long ago had the jury been paying close attention to the numbers. The correct math does not lie. Fortunately, the current slate of jurors has announced rate increases through 2024, but parish attorney and assistant district attorney Patrick Jackson said it best at the November 18, 2020, meeting:

“We are trying to make this thing fully functional and self supporting. But even after this 3 year rate increase it [the sewer district] still won’t be self-supporting.”

As we posed on Monday evening’s Bossier Watch Facebook live video, “who is watching the watchers?” Thanks to Barry Butler, a former police juror and creator of The Butler Report, for his research and reporting – and for “watching the watchers”.