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Friday, July 25, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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(Donna Price / American Press)

(Donna Price / American Press)

Voters to consider sewer tax

Last Modified: Sunday, March 02, 2014 5:14 PM

By John Guidroz / American Press

One item on the April 5 ballot will ask voters living in Calcasieu Parish’s unincorporated areas if they want to fund about half of a $110 million sewer expansion plan with a 20-year, quarter-cent sales tax.

Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said the expansion would be parishwide, with existing municipal sewer services extended in south Lake Charles, Carlyss and Moss Bluff, and areas surrounding Westlake, Sulphur, DeQuincy, Vinton and Iowa.

“You really have no true municipal-type sewer system in unincorporated areas,” he said.

Allen Wainwright, parish public works director, said sewer trunklines will be extended along “major corridors” that are projected to see economic expansion like commercial development. Beam said officials from each municipality have also given input on the expansion projects.

“This phase is geared to establish a backbone system throughout the parish which will allow it to be run to other areas, such as residential,” Beam said. “Sewering the whole parish is way too expensive to put in one proposition.”

How it’s funded

If approved, the sales tax would generate about $4.3 million per year and would become effective Jan. 1. The rest of the expansion would be funded with $56 million in parish gambling funds and $11.8 million in state capital outlay money.

Beam said the plan would be “tax neutral” for all areas, except for Ward 1, which includes Moss Bluff and Gillis. This is because the Police Jury agreed to reduce the levy of its existing road and garbage sales tax by a quarter-cent for the remainder of the term of that tax. Ward 1 residents do not pay that tax.

The current sales tax rate for residents in unincorporated areas is 9.25 percent.

Growing needs

Beam said the reason for the tax proposal is twofold — “economic development and quality of life.”

The population in unincorporated areas has increased over the last several decades, causing a strain on infrastructure like roads, drainage and sewer.

“We have over 30,000 individual sewer treatment systems right outside of residences,” he said. “Many of these systems aren’t working properly, which means a large amount of untreated or undertreated sewage is flowing into ditches. That flows to our lakes and rivers.”

Beam said the population in unincorporated areas grew from 39,000 residents in 1970 to more than 86,000 residents in 2010. That growth has transformed once rural areas into “suburban or, in some cases, urban” areas, he said.

The lack of a regional sewer service has deterred economic growth for many years, Beam said. He quoted a 1992 Chamber Foundation study, along with a recent report by the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance that cited a lack of sewer along commercial routes outside cities as the reason why some commercial prospects have not considered building in Calcasieu.

“This is not a new problem,” Beam said. “It’s only gotten much worse in the last 20 years.”

He said the anticipated growth with major industrial projects will make the issue worse “if we don’t get a better handle on it.”

Commission

The nine members of the sewer commission could review any proposed revisions to the expansion projects and set priorities on future work. The commission is made up of five police jurors, one representative from Lake Charles and Sulphur, and two rotating among DeQuincy, Iowa, Vinton and Westlake.

Each member will serve a three-year term. Any recommendations would be considered by the full Police Jury.

Early voting is March 22-29. Voters can cast early ballots at the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse, 1000 Ryan St.; the Moss Bluff Library, 261 Parish Road; and the West Calcasieu Business Center in Sulphur, 500 A N. Huntington St.

Posted By: Steve sturrock On: 3/3/2014

Title: all sewer systems have recently been inspected

you stated in the article that many of the private sewer systems are not working properly. If so why was the recent inspections that were done and repairs made to systems that were not working properly and inspected by the parish done ?

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