Better informed council members have change of heart

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Carolyn Roy | News Editor

Three City councilpersons came around to the Mayor’s way of thinking following a meeting with him Tuesday. At the City Council meeting Aug. 23, Councilpersons Dale Nielsen and Eddie Harrington and Councilperson-at-Large Betty Sawyer-Smith defeated a resolution pushed by Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. to hire an engineering firm to perform a preliminary engineering report (PER).

The report is needed to submit with a grant application to the Water Sector Program through the La. Division of Administration. The PER was to compare the benefits and costs of upgrading the existing water treatment plant to replacing it with a larger plant at a new location. They voted against the resolution on grounds they had too little information and believed the cost of $200,000 was too high.

Nielsen and Harrington met with the Mayor and engineers Tuesday and said they received a better understanding of what the PER would include. The engineers lowered the cost to $164,000 during that meeting. Because of the open meetings law, which states the convening of a quorum of a public body by the public body or by another public official to receive information regarding a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power must be public, Sawyer-Smith did not attend the meeting. Her presence would have constituted a quorum.

During the special called meeting Aug. 26, the council voted unanimously to hire Carollo Engineers, MAVA Engineering LLC, EJES Inc., and Schuler Consulting Co., to perform the PER. Harrington said he had more details about what the PER would involve, how the money would be spent and believed the process to be more complete since grant requirements had changed.

He said he didn’t have full details at the Monday meeting and could not have defended a positive vote to taxpayers. Nielsen said he was satisfied with the reduced costs and had details that he did not have Monday. Four engineering firms are being used, at no additional cost, for their specialties to faster develop the PER since the grant deadline is Sept. 24.