Escalating prices for supplies affect City budget

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Carolyn Roy | News Editor About the most interesting topic at the City Council meeting Monday was the escalating price of chemicals for the utility department. The water treatment plant uses caustic soda and orders it twice a year. The chemical was previously .23 cents a pound but is now 1.2 cents per pound. Purchasing Agent and Chief of Staff Edd Lee said that is more than a 100 percent increase for the 500,000-pound order. The low bidder was Univar Solutions USA Inc., of Kent, Wash.

This article published in the Nov. 13, 2021, print edition

Also showing a marked increase is the price of liquid chlorine used at the water treatment plant to sterilize the water. The price has jumped from $796 per ton to $1,376 or about a $43,000 increase for the 75-ton order. The low bidder was DPC Enterprises of Reserve. The increase is related to the rising price of crude oil because of the refineries shutting down and having low inventory. The rising costs impact the net income of the utility department that transfers money to the general fund. It’s been at least 35 years coming to fruition but the renovation of the T&P Railroad depot is about to become a reality.

The council introduced an ordinance awarding the bid to DSW Construction LLC of Natchitoches. The bid of $868,893 is lower than the first estimation of $1.3 million. Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. said the City worked to get the price down by eliminating deductions such as the sprinkler system, exterior acoustic blankets and fence wrap and train platform awning on the west side.

The City will also receive a tax credit of $191,000. The City will recoup some of the costs by renting the former Eagle Distributing Co., office building to the National Park Service for $130,000 annually. The National Park Service will contribute $750,000. Renovations should begin at the first of the year taking about five months to complete.

The City is optimistic the project will increase the size of the historic landmark district by incorporating changes to Third, Fourth and Fifth streets. Proposed ordinance #057 will amend the City Charter to establish the Natchitoches Fairness, Equality and Inclusion Program. City Attorney Alex Washington said the ordinance increases minority businesses in the City. It will provide opportunities to businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons to participate in activities that involve public spending or private projects that utilize public funding or incentives.

The City will identify and list those businesses that are small, minority and female-owned and use the list to assist them in the procurement of goods and services of the City. The purchasing department will oversee the application, certification, compliance, outreach training and capacity building for disadvantaged businesses in the City. The firms must be at least 51 percent owned by minorities;be small businesses as defined by SBA Standards; and will be race and gender neutral.

The third ordinance addressed providing an office for the City Marshall at 450 Fifth St. The ordinances were introduced and will be voted on at the next Council meeting. There were several resolutions adopted related to the La. Community Development Block Grant-CV for HVAC improvements. They included resolutions for management, grievance procedure, communicating information to those with sensory impairment, language access plan and environment site assessment.

The last LCDBG-CV resolution allowed paying an additional $10,500 to grant administrator, Frye Magee. The company submitted a fee of $35,000 for administrative services when the original grant award was $500,000. The award has since been increased to $1 million so they are raising the administrative fee to $45,500.

A previous story in the Natchitoches Times incorrectly stated the LCDBG grant would be used to put new roofs on the MLK Recreation and Community Center and the Natchitoches Events Center. The money will be used to install new HVAC systems.

Another resolution adopted will allow the obstruction removal of about 30 trees on the Northwestern State golf course that obstruct vision on Runway 7 at the Natchitoches Regional Airport. They will be replaced with crape myrtles. The cost of $41,860 will be paid by La. DOTD. The City offices will close Nov. 25-26 for Thanksgiving.

The next scheduled City Council meeting will be Nov. 22.