Patterson plans upgrade to drinking water system

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LUMCON’s LEAD camp slated for June 24-29
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LUMCON’s LEAD camp slated for June 24-29
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Plans are now under way to construct a $9.4 million water plant within the City of Patterson.

And for the first time since the city’s incorporation in 1907, commercial businesses will pay more rates for water than home consumers.

Mayor Rodney Grogan said the need for a new city tap is due to a 19 percent growth in the city over the past 10 years, coupled with the age of its present plant, which city records show is at least 71 years old, if not a few more.

Another huge factor, the mayor said, are the growing requirements of U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals, and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

“While we have been meeting all for their standards for water quality, all of these agencies have been working with us, knowing of our plans. They know and we know, we’re outdated,” Grogan said.

The City of Patterson receives its drinking water from Bayou Teche. Patterson’s current water plant is located next to City Hall on Main Street.

The city also serves customers to the east, an area including the Bayou Vista Community up to Southeast Blvd (Bayou Vista is an unincorporated area of St. Mary Parish, situated between the towns of Berwick and Patterson).

To the west, the city serves an area outside its limits, up to the area known by locals as Green Acres.

Patterson also serves other nearby entities, including the Patterson Civic Center and the Atchafalaya Golf Course, both located outside city limits.

“The city of Patterson has 6,100 people in population, but our water department records show we have 9,000 customers,” Grogan said.

He said the project will be paid for with $5 million in bonds, $4 million through loans financed with the USDA, and the remaining amount will be paid for by increases in water rates,

which will begin next month with consumers’ June bill.

The mayor said he expects collections to rise, particularly from commercial customers, who have paid the same for water use as private consumers have, since the city was incorporated in 1907.

“In March of 2011, only my third month in office, I began to tackle the issue of our water plant,” Grogan said. “That’s when I discovered, that there was never any differentiation between commercial and residential water rates. Businesses throughout our service area have been paying the same rates for water as individual consumers, from what I can see, ever since the town was incorporated in 1907.

“How much of a loss is that? I don’t know. I don’t think it has ever been tracked. I’m not saying it wasn’t noticed, but I believe no one bothered to do anything about it. The loss is too insurmountable to count.”

As an example, the mayor pointed to one commercial customer who paid $28,000 for water last year. By the time the new water plant is finished, that figure will jump to at least $62,000 a year, if not more.

Grogan said the city is planning to bid the project out in September, open bids in October, award them in November and break ground in December. “And when it’s finished, we’ll have a water plant that will service a number between 12 to 15,000 customers, but more importantly one guaranteed for at least 40 years.”

The new water rates issued by the City of Patterson increases a new flat rate cost for all customers by 2014.

After that, the city adds on an additional 2 percent CPI annual increase starting in 2015.

The coming increases include, for city residents per month: $11.66 in 2012, $13.33 in 2013, and $15 in 2014.

City businesses, who will see different monthly rates for the first time ever, will pay $16.66 in 2012, $23.33 in 2013 and $30, in 2014.

Non-residents will see the following monthly increases: $12.50 in 2012, $15 in 2013 and $17.50 in 2014.

And businesses outside the city limits will see these monthly bills: $18.33 in 2012, $26.66 in 2013 and $35 in 2014.

“Starting next month, people are going to be very conscientious in their water usage,” Grogan said.

On the flip side of the new water plant, Grogan said improvements to the city’s pipes are going to be continuous. Last year for instance, the mayor said, “the drought killed us, as we had numerous instances with broken pipes.”

Grogan said the city has faced problems with aging pipes in areas like First Street, for instance, for years, but no one has bothered to grapple and deal with the situation.

“We’re going to have to consider grant funding to deal with this. We had too many breaks last year, where we had sizeable losses of water,” Grogan said.

And in a related matter, Grogan said due there would be no more sewer bill adjustments in the wake of infrastructure problems there.

“If a water line is leaking and a resident racks up both water and sewer rates as a result, previously the city would forgive a portion of the sewer rates, which are based on water usage. We just can’t do this anymore, it’s too costly,” the mayor said.