Lake Charles City Council members voted Wednesday to enter into a partnership with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury to install a sewer system that is designed to offer relief to residents in the southeast portion of the city, including Sunset Acres, Power Centre Parkway and University Place.
However, District A Councilwoman Mary Morris mentioned a lack of support to get such utility improvements to the areas north and northeast of Lake Charles. Morris was the only council member to abstain from voting on the item.
"The growth of the city should be about the growth of all of the city and not just one part of the city," she said.
John Cardone, city administrator, said the Sarver Street lift station and existing transport lines that service the area have outgrown the development, creating a bottleneck. He said the city initially sought to upgrade the lift station, along with additional transport lines, to transport wastewater to treatment plant "D," in order to facilitate growth in the area. The treatment plant is located on Tank Farm Road.
"We were having to do this project," Cardone said. "This project has been on our books for four or five years now."
That project had a $15 million price tag and would also have required sewer lines to be torn up around McNeese State University's football stadium and through subdivisons, along with roads being cut.
"It would have been a great disruption to (residents) to do the work," said Mike Huber, city director of planning and engineering.
Cardone said city engineers then looked into a partnership with the Police Jury. The parish was starting to install a sewer line to service Lake Charles Regional Airport, with the goal of extending sewer lines to wastewater treatment plant D.
The partnership is expected to cost the city up to $20 million. Cardone said an 8-mile sewer line will be installed, with roughly 5.5 miles being done by the city.
The approach, Cardone said, is more expensive, but it will be less of an inconvenience to residents. It will also offer a long-term benefit for the city and the parish.
"A lot of it is in undeveloped areas," Cardone said. "We think this is a better option."
Huber said the project could open the door for growth down the road.
"We don't have to run that line in the future," he said. "Developers will just have to pay to come off of it and develop their property."
The city was approved to receive a $15 million low-interest loan from the state Department of Environmental Quality for the initial Sarver Street lift station work. Cardone said that money will instead be used for the preferred, alternate route.
The Police Jury has yet to take action on the item.
City Council President Luvertha August said residents in her district have asked about what is being done to promote growth in their area.
"They actually feel that there is a very deliberate move to develop one part of the city over another," she said.
Cardone said the city's three wastewater treatment plants are all connected. The rebuilt "BC" plant, at 1132 W. 18th St., was opened in July 2018 and cost more than $43 million. The new plant, Cardone said, helped divert some of the wastewater going to plant A, located on North Ryan Street.
"When we look at making modifications to our system, whether it's water or sewer, what's in the best interest of the entire city," he asked. "It's not just one area."
Cardone said he recognized the concerns Morris raised during the meeting.
"She wants to see the northern part of the city grow," he said. "We want to see it as well."
The council also approved an agreement with the Police Jury to extend water service in certain unincorporated areas and to extend water service along the Police Jury's planned Ham Reid Road extension project.
The cost of that project will be split equally between the parish, city and Waterworks District 12 of Ward 3, Cardone said. He said it will improve the overall water quality in the city.