Water districts adjust to population changes

By By John Guidroz / American Press

The growth in Calcasieu Parish is forcing some local water districts to improve services for existing customers by extending

water lines to neighborhoods in south Lake Charles and providing fire protection in Moss Bluff, while another district is

planning for a proposed subdivision in Carlyss.

Alice Webb, Ward 4 Waterworks District 9 supervisor, said the subdivision would be located off La. 27 and could bring 130

new homes to the Carlyss area. She said the subdivision, and any new development, will have water lines measuring 8 inches

in diameter to provide enough water pressure to new homes. Webb said the district also plans to replace its 3- and 4-inch

lines with the larger ones.

“When districts were formed, they didn’t put out an 8-inch line because of the cost,” she said. “Everyone was on wells back

then. Now there’s subdivisions coming in.”

Webb said the district is also saving money to install a water tower on property south of Dave Dugas Road to make sure the

district can handle more customers.

Extended service

Water lines in south Lake Charles will be extended along Big Lake Road to Lincoln and Elliot roads, serving nearly 400 residents

in the Country Pines Subdivision.

Crews with Janco Water Division Co. Inc. will install a 12-inch water main along the route, according to John Lowery with Lancon Engineers Inc. He said the lines — located within Ward 3 Waterworks District 12 — could be extended to Gauthier Road if there is enough money to pay for the work.

“We’ve got money to get to Flounder Drive, just north of Tank Farm Road,” Lowery said.

District 6 Calcasieu Police Juror Dennis Scott said he, along with Police Jurors Guy Brame, Chris Landry and Kevin Guidry,

agreed to use $1.3 million in Ward 3 gambling money to pay for the project. He said the Police Jury also used $250,000 in parishwide gambling money to upgrade the district’s water system.

“We wanted only projects that would affect a large amount of people instead of piecemeal projects here and there,” Scott said.

Lowery said the new customers will bring in needed revenue for the district. The district was originally created to serve

commercial businesses and has about 10 commercial customers. He said the water plant on Henry Pugh Road “is not operating near capacity.”

Alicia Sittig, the water district’s

secretary, said the Port of Lake Charles first owned the water system

before the Police

Jury acquired it. While the Police Jury reactivated the district’s

board in 2009, she said the parish maintains and operates

the water system.

“The Police Jury will continue to operate the district until the (board) can get revenue from new customers,” she said. “With

just those few (commercial) companies, the cost of operations and maintenance is negative, compared to the water sold.”

Fire protection

Homeowners on Heard and Podrasky roads

in Moss Bluff will soon have fire protection once crews overlay larger

water lines.

Gerald Hoffpauir, supervisor for Ward 1 Waterworks District 1,

said 6-inch water lines — the minimum size required for fire

protection — will be laid next to the existing 4-inch lines.

Hoffpauir said the project is funded by

$90,000 in parish gambling funds, along with $72,800 in grant money

from the state

Office of Community Development. Once the work is done, crews will

put in new water lines at the Indian Bayou Estates subdivision,

which sits behind Heard Road.

District 1 Police Juror Shannon Spell said the work is a “combination of resident concerns and proactive planning” by the

water district and local officials. He said fire protection is necessary because Ward 1 has grown from about 10,000 people

in 1990 to about 20,000 people now.

“When the water district first was created, it only provided water service,” Spell said. “With the growth, you can no longer

ignore the fact that those neighborhoods need fire hydrants.”

Hoffpauir said the Police Jury recently

approved using $125,000 in parish gambling money to install new water

lines for homeowners

along Topsy Road from its intersection with Welcome Road to the

parish line. He said the district is waiting on the state

to respond to a grant application.

Spell said the water district only uses revenue from the sale and supply of water to pay for operation and maintenance. Each

district charges monthly water use rates for its residential and commercial customers.

Other challenges

Another district is having to adjust to

fewer customers because Sasol is buying property just outside Westlake

city limits.

Joseph Withers, general manager of Waterworks District 7 of Wards 4

and 6, said the district has already lost nearly 60 residential

customers and could lose more of its nearly 1,570 customers.

Withers said he is worried about losing

the tax base those customers provided, rather than the money they paid

for water.

He said that fewer customers may force the district to raise the

10-year, 6-mill tax that pays for operation and maintenance

costs. It comes up for renewal at the end of the year.

“The customers all contribute to the millage, (and) it takes a toll on our budget,” he said. “To date, we’ve never had an

increase in water rates.”

Last October, police jurors agreed to take over as the governing authority of Waterworks District 5 of Wards 3 and 8. Allen

Wainwright, the parish’s public works director, said the decision was made to improve the quality of customer service. He

said the parish contracted Booth Environmental Services to handle the district’s daily operations.

“We’re expecting to continue the use of contract operators like that,” Wainwright said.

Mitch Hoffpauir, plant manager for Waterworks District 8 of Wards 3 and 8, said the district was forced to increase its rates

because of the rising costs of chlorine and other chemicals, along with fuel prices.

“We haven’t had a rate increase in years,” he said. “The cost has gone up, but our water rates remain the same. Sooner or

later, we would’ve been in the red. Either you go up, or go out of business.”

In Ward 4 Waterworks District 4, crews

are about to start installing new storage tanks, filters and a new well,

according

to office manager Crystal Broussard. She said the water plant,

which serves about 5,000 customers who live just outside Westlake,

was reaching capacity.

“The plant is almost 40 years old,” Broussard said. “The summers before when we were in a drought, we asked customers to water

(lawns) on certain days.”