City Council sees water treatment costs soar as new plant awaits

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Nathan Wilson
The Natchitoches City Council convened Monday, Sept. 26 in a meeting where city officials celebrated a rare project cost savings against a backdrop of rising operating costs.
Resolution 87 authorized a negative change order for the project cost for water system improvements serving the village of Powhatan. The change order represents a decrease of $249,510 paid to ASB Utility Construction, LLC and results from a reduction in the size of pipe used in the project. As a grant funded project, cost overages in excess of the project’s $2 million budget would negatively impact the city’s operating budget.

This article published in the Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, print edition.

The Natchitoches City Council introduced ordinance 61 to award a bid that will raise its water treatment costs by nearly $70,000 per year for a single chemical used in its treatment process. “It’s about $950 per ton higher than what we were paying (or) about $68,000 over the next year above what we’re paying now,” said Director of Utilities Matt Anderson. The bid submitted by DPC Enterprises of Reserve, La. is for $2,291 per ton of chlorine.
The council will vote on the measure during its next scheduled meeting Oct. 10, but it won’t have much choice but to approve the elevated price. “We usually have two or three bids normally on chlorine. From what I understand, DCP is one of the only suppliers left doing business in Louisiana,” said Anderson. “It’s disappointing we only got one bid.” Chlorine is essential for disinfecting water during the treatment process to ensure its safety for human consumption. The rising cost of chlorine and other chemicals is a factor in the city’s efforts to communicate the need for water utility rate increases through a series of townhall meetings. The increased utility charges are planned to offset rising treatment costs and fund construction of a new water treatment plant.
Approved Ordinances
Ordinance 51 awarded a bid for a water well drilling project valued at $370,693 and capable of generating approximately 300,000 gallons of water per day to Watson Well Drilling and Construction, LLC. The project will supply roughly 20,000 gallons per day to the village of Powhatan, with the remainder adding to the municipal water supply.
Ordinance 52 awarded a bid valued at $1,839,788 to ASB Utility Construction, LLC of Shreveport to install a water main to serve the village of Powhatan. Both bids authorized by Ordinance 51 and 52 are funded by a federal grant.
Ordinance 56 authorized the city to purchase equipment and other movable property using approximately $570,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
Ordinance 57 authorized the city to use $200,000 in ARPA funding for renovation of the “John Deere Building” on Texas Street which is planned to house the city’s public works offices and equipment.
Ordinance 58 designated $105,000 in ARPA funds for the façade improvement grant program targeting businesses along Texas and Washington Streets for aesthetic improvements and renovations, where $5,000 of the funds are intended to defray administrative costs associated with the program.
Introduced Ordinances
Ordinance 59 was introduced to lease additional hangar space at Natchitoches Regional Airport to Air Data Solutions, LLC. The company is growing and anticipates needing more room for its operations.
Ordinance 60 was introduced to lease a lot at Natchitoches Regional Airport to Louisiana Agricultural Finance Agency. The lot is adjacent to the company’s existing hangar facilities and serves as a site for its fuel storage tank.
Ordinance 62 was introduced to approve a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) between the city of Natchitoches and Crime Stoppers. The city will provide $25,000 over the course of 11 months to support the organization’s rewards, payments and other expenses.
Ordinance 63 was introduced to approve a CEA between the city and the Natchitoches Parish School Board to provide additional crossing guards for schools parishwide. “We’re needing to staff our crossing guards, and what we’re providing currently is not enough,” said Chief of Police Nikeo Collins. “We were down to three crossing guards. Currently we have four. There’s six school zones that these crossing guards help.”
Approved Resolutions
Resolution 80 appointed an Animal Advisory Committee for the City of Natchitoches. The committee is composed of representatives from the city council, law enforcement, members of the Humane Society and Hope for Paws organizations, and individuals with veterinary expertise.
Resolution 81 authorized the city to utilize the consulting firm Frye Magee, LLC to pursue a Louisiana Community Development Block Grant for up to $800,000 in projects.
Resolution 82 authorizes the city to enter into an agreement with KSA Engineers Inc. to rehabilitate the White Oak Land Booster Station. The resolution delineates the responsibilities of the company to maintain the infrastructure.
Resolution 83 authorizes the mayor to initiate a property insurance contract with Risk Services of Louisiana, LLC in conjunction with Cunningham Insurance Agency. The one year contract for $203,449 represents an increase from the city’s prior contract for $187,000. The increased premium reflects inflationary increases in the value of the city’s assets. “They reassessed the repair and replacement of our properties and it went up by about $9 million,” said Director of Purchasing Edd Lee.
Resolution 85 authorized the city to accept bids for HVAC improvements to the Natchitoches Events Center.
Resolution 86 authorized the city to accept bids for HVAC improvements to the MLK Recreational Center. Lee stated the city administration is also waiting for additional information about the status of the mold remediation project.
Approved Planning and Zoning Ordinances
The city also approved planning and zoning ordinances to provide 516 Keegan St., 202 Demeziere St. and 203 Sidney St. with special exceptions.
Reports
Director of Finance Clarissa Brown-Smith provided a financial report indicating the city’s tax collections compared to the prior year. Law enforcement tax is up 6%, sales tax is up 3.7% and the hotel occupancy tax is up 40%.
Proclamations
The city approved proclamation 79 declaring Oct. 15 as White Cane Awareness Day supporting blind and visually impaired residents.
The city approved proclamation 84 declaring Oct. 9-15 as Fire Prevention Week.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 10.