Donaldsonville officials question response to water outage

Donaldsonvillecityhall 2015

Following the Parish Utilities of Ascension water outage and subsequent boil advisory, Donaldsonville officials reacted with criticism on how the crisis was handled.

Meeting Tuesday, January 9, 2018 for the first time since the outage, the Council and the Mayor vented frustration for how Ascension Parish government handled the situation.

Earlier in the day, the parish released a statement lifting the boil water advisory for customers of the water company. The advisory had been in place for nearly a week after officials shut down the system due to low pressure brought on by several days of freezing temperatures.

Parish Utilities of Ascension is owned and operated by Ascension Parish government. The parish purchased the utility from Peoples Water Company in September 2016. It serves more than 3,200 customers in the city and parts of the surrounding area.

The Mayor and some Council members expressed frustration with the lack of communication from Ascension Parish government officials. They said they were not notified of the system shutdown, and were forced to scramble for answers when constituents came with questions.

Councilman Lauthaught Delaney Sr. said he learned of the outage when he "turned on the faucet and nothing came out."

Mayor Leroy Sullivan Sr. thought the issue was isolated to his house. He learned the problem was with the water system when local plumber Joey Thibodeaux called him about the water being off at the nursing home.

Councilman Charles Brown questioned the parish's lack of protocols.

"Nothing is in place in the event of a crisis," Brown said.

He added that there was "no communication at all" from the water system's overseers.

"We represent the City of Donaldsonville," Brown continued. "Our constituents look to the city, not the parish."

The Mayor felt particulary slighted.

"I felt like I was disrespected," Sullivan said. "I'm the one people are bashing on Facebook."

Local resident Glenn Price questioned why the parish took over the water company in the first place.

"I don't know why they wanted to buy it so bad," he said. "We need to hold them accountable. We need to point the finger."

The Mayor said Parish Councilman Bill Dawson was willing to meet with city leaders, but was unable to attend due to a parish meeting held the same night. Sullivan added that Parish Manager William Daniel was scheduled to meet with him and city officials the following day.

City Attorney Chuck Long reminded the Council that the water system's ownership is on a month-to-month franchise agreement.

"That's where you draw up obligations and responsibilities," Long said. "We give them a right to operate the system."

Councilman Raymond Aucoin said he sensed parish government's reaction seemed more concerned with the financial cost than the suffering of residents.

"We all should have been on the same page," Sullivan said. "I don't think it was right."

In another matter, Tuesday:

The Council unanimously re-elected its chairman and vice chairman.

Aucoin will continue as chairman, and Delaney as vice chairman.

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