The small Lafayette Parish town is about to get a “substantial” bill from the utility company.
Lafayette Utilities System says the city of Broussard, one of several wholesale LUS water customers, had been receiving free water at one of its meter locations in southwest Broussard since at least 2006, and the bill for all that free water is going to run to the tune of $800,000.
“It’s a serious situation,” says LUS Director Terry Huval. “We’ve never had something this serious occur on our system with a wholesale customer before.”
The back story: In 2005, Broussard requested an additional meter be placed near where Camelot, a retirement community, was set to be built on Albertson Parkway in southwest Broussard. This was a growing sector of Broussard, and the city anticipated the growth and an increased need for water in the area. Broussard paid for the meter, which LUS installed.
Municipal meters of this sort have two valves on them — one for the meter that allows the provider to keep tabs on the customer’s usage and bill them accordingly, and a second valve that bypasses the meter. The bypass valve is there to prevent an interruption of water service in the event the meter needs to be serviced or replaced.
But, according to Huval, after the meter in question was installed, it was never put into service — the meter, in other words, wasn’t turning. And that, according to the utility director, was because the bypass valve had been turned on and water was flowing into southwest Broussard free of the meter. And free of charge.
“You have to have the right tools and you have to have some know-how, so it wasn’t just someone that went out there that didn’t know what they were doing,” Huval says. “They had to turn on the [bypass] valve.”
“I think maybe closer to $8,000,” Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais says of what that estimated LUS bill should be, admitting in the same breath that specifics about the meter and the bypass valve are hazy. “I think there was little or no water pressure there so there was no, I don’t know, I don’t remember the details. All I know is [Broussard city engineer Mark Savoy] briefed me about it and I said, ‘Well, clean it up and whatever we owe ’em, we owe ’em.”
Mark Savoy, the city engineer for Broussard, says he was notified of the bypass valve situation in September, but says the problem must be on LUS’s end. “I can’t exactly answer what happened because it’s not [Broussard’s] meter, it’s LUS’s meter,” he says. “And understand, this meter is in a lock box and the only one with a key is LUS.”
Huval, however, says the meter in question is not in a lock box; since a special wrench and some know-how are required to work the valves, a lock isn’t necessary.
Savoy estimates based on the wholesale rate Broussard pays to LUS for water, that an $800,000 bill would be for roughly 300 million gallons of water. “I don’t know how much water they buy from LUS a year, but that seems kind of like a lot of water,” he says.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
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MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.