Several updates were in order for the Wednesday, April 7 Port Allen City Council committee meetings.
The City will need to make several repairs and replacements to keep Port Allen’s wastewater treatment facility from going down the drain.
City Engineer Tony Arikol urged the City Council to consider a list of several necessary repairs and tour the facility with temporary Supervisor Philmore “BJ” Bradford, Jr. to get a better understanding of the state of the sewer treatment system.
Arikol said the facility needs several pumps, motors, a new polymer system, five blowers with effluent pumps as the most critical item on the list. There’s no price tag on the necessary repairs yet, but the city will advertise bids in the coming weeks. The plan is to include the necessary repairs in the 2021-22 budget, Chief Administrative Officer Lance Joseph said. The Mayor typically presents a budget for the upcoming fiscal year in June.
City officials are hopeful that Grön Fuels will commit to locating at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. The company has expressed interest in building a regional wastewater treatment facility and allowing local municipalities to tie into the system. While the prospect is exciting, the repairs to the existing facility will need to happen whether Grön Fuels decides to locate at the Port or not, Arikol said. A final decision from Grön Fuels is expected sometime this year.
“We can’t, at this point, put our eggs in that basket,” he told the City Council.
Bodies on some of the pumps at the facility are approximately 40 years old. During emergencies, repairs are much more costly. Recently, the city had to make an emergency repair to an effluent pump.
“I’ve seen a lot of wastewater treatment plants in my life, and a lot of them need a lot of tender loving care,” Arikol said. “Let’s just say this one is in the top 10% of needing tender loving care. I urge that y’all do all if at least not some of these [repairs] because you don’t want to do some of these under emergencies like when you had to fix the effluent pump because it costs you more than you deserve,” Arikol said.
Councilman Hugh Riviere suggested the council consider allocating $300,000 each year to sewer system maintenance, similar to the city’s Road Rehabilitation Program. Arikol agreed.
“Whether $300,000 covers it... It’s better than nothing,” he said.
The City Council will decide during next week’s regular meeting whether the condition of a home on Avenue G is acceptable. The city’s long-fought battle with residents of a home on Avenue G who have said they operate a business selling repurposed items came to a head as the city took action to clean up the property last month. The city is still pursuing legal action against the residents and property owners, which will allow the city to remove items from the yard should it reach the status of a nuisance again.
Councilman Riviere said the property looks better but encouraged all City Council members to see the property for themselves before taking any action next week.
The City Council will decide on three new hires next week - two for the Port Allen Police Department and one for the Assistant CFO position.
The Mayor asked the City Council to consider approving the hire of Breanna Jones for the Assistant Chief Financial Officer position. Jones was one of three applicants for the position Mayor Richard Lee told the City Council.
Jones is a Southern University and Louisiana State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a master’s in analytics. She is currently employed with the state Office of Financial Institutions as a Compliance Examiner. She has also worked as an accountant and with the Department of Public Works.
Police Chief Corey Hicks asked the council to consider hiring former Port Allen Police Corporal and Bobby Hopson as a Sergeant. Hopson formerly served as Assistant Chief under Chief Walter Smith. He left the department under the previous administration.
“There were reasons why I left, but problems have been solved,” Hopson said.
Chief Hicks also plans to hire Kenneth Parker as an Officer. Parker currently works with the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office as a jailer. Before working with the WBRSO, he worked as a road patrol deputy with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office for three years. Parker said he worked under Chief Hicks at the parish jail, saw he had an opening at the department and is “blessed to be going through the hiring process.”
“These two will bring positive outlooks, necessary knowledge to the department and help us on our paths to prosper,” Chief Hicks said.