Businesses, residents in Lacassine area want answers on water issues

Published 5:32 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Residents and business owners in the Lacassine area want to know what is being done about frequent water outages and low water pressure.

The group met last week with the Jeff Davis Water and Sewer Commission No. 1 to discuss those concerns and future of the water district. Those attending the meeting said they have experienced outages and low water pressure for years.

“All of us are just concerned about Lacassine,” resident Judy Petry said. “We want to see our community grow and prosper. We want to see our school system better. We want to make life better for Lacassine in general.”

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Louisiana Spirits President Angelo Torre, who operates the rum distillery in Lacassine, said the business recently lost two days of operations including nearly $125,000 in manufacturing and retail sales due to lack of water during the freeze in January.

“When we don’t have the water to operate our restrooms and sinks, I can’t have employees there, so I shut it down,” Torre said. “I also have an event center and a retail shop and I have to shut them down. So I am losing retail and manufacturing revenue.”

In addition, Torre said employees were sent home without pay impacting their paychecks by almost 20 percent.

Kendal Henry, owner of Henry’s Travel Plaza in Lacassine, said she has had water problems for more than three years and has had to close the restrooms to the public on several occasions. Most recently the business was without water for five days, she said.

“I know we have a pressure issue and we have to help y’all fix it,” Henry told the board.

She said the business has had plumbers look into the issue and is looking at installing its own 400,000 gallon water storage tank at a cost of $80,000-$100,000 to help alleviate the problem.

Commission President Greg Bordelon said he feels the issue with Henry’s is an obstruction somewhere on the property. He said the water district has tested both sides of Henry’s property and have not found any pressure issues.

“If I was the only one with water pressure issues, there wouldn’t be a person in this room, but y’all and me,” Henry said. “….We want to see it fixable. I want a switch and everybody in this room would be pressured up. It’s just good for our community and our parish.”

Lacassine High School Principal Rhoda Corkran said the school also has water issues on a regular basis. It was closed for two days during the January freeze due to water issues.

“I have been at Lacassine for 10 years, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the times that we have had to get on the intercom and say, ‘We got a phone call and the water pressure is going to be rough, get all the kids to the restrooms’ then finish out the rest of the day as best we can without being able to flush toilets,” Corkran said. “I can’t count the number of times I have had to tell my cafeteria ladies to change plans because we are not going to have water pressure at noon.”

Corkran said water is important to the future of the school, businesses and community.

“I want to make sure Lacassine has the best of what it can so that we can grow and that people already there can thrive,” she said. “We are going to build a baseball park and we are going to need water and sprinklers are that grass is not going to grow. Water is a vital thing for the school and our community and we’ve got to have it.”

Bordelon said the drought has caused many water lines to break, but most repairs are made as quickly as possible and water is not shut off until the last minute.

The district is working on a proposed $5 million project, including a $1 million water well and a $500,000 upgrade for a generator at the Thornwell facility.

The project, which will be completed in two phases, also includes plans for a booster station in Lacassine and a ground water storage facility.

Bordelon said the system is currently about half capacity with 3,200 customers and can handle up to 6,000 customers, but needs some major improvements to increase its water supply to meet the demands of future growth.

The district has been approved for $750,000 from the state’s capital outlay plan, but has yet to receive the money, Bordelon said.

The Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury has agreed to pay a 25 percent, or $250,000, match from its federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds earmarked for water district improvements. The state requires a 25 percent match for its funding, Bordelon said.

Additional money is expected to be paid by the Calcasieu and Cameron parish police juries who receive water from the district in rural areas.

“Part of the money will go to building a booster station in Lacassine on property owned by the police jury that they are generously donating to us,” Bordelon said.

The property is located on the south side of the railroad tracks near where the Lacassine Athletic Complex, Baseball and Softball fields project will be built.

Engineer Mark McCarty of Myers and Associates said the booster station would increase the amount of water that is available during peak demands, including fighting fires, without putting a great strain on the Thornwell plant.

Bordelon said the water district is also planning to install a ground water storage facility as part of the project.

Plans for Phase I of the project are nearing completion and the project will be bid out as soon as the money is received, he said. Officials hope to have the first phase of the project completed in 1-2 years.

The second phase of the project includes plans to upgrade and increase the size of the water plant in Lacassine for future growth.

“If we are going to grow we have to enlarge it,” Bordelon said. “We can still handle another 10 years of growth there.”

Other plans for the water system include drilling a third well and adding a treatment facility for the well. An automated sewer system is also proposed for the Lacassine industrial park.

The water district services everything in Jeff Davis Parish south of Interstate 10, except for Silverwood. It includes Lacassine, Thornwell, Roanoke, Bell City, Hayes and parts of the Lowry highway in Cameron Parish.