How dumb does he think your Council representatives are?

William “I am a big boy” Daniel (file photo)

In politics stupidity is not a handicap. -Napoleon Bonaparte

How dumb does Ascension Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel, IV think your Parish Council representative is?  Daniel addressed the governing authority recently to explain the inability of Parish Utilities of Ascension (PUA) to provide water to an unknown number of customers residing in the City of Donaldsonville during last week’s hard freeze.  Since September of 2016, when a unanimous Council authorized President Kenny Matassa to purchase the privately-owned Peoples Water Company (which became PUA), his administration has been unable to determine the cost of producing a gallon of water; while admitting several (somewhere between 12 and 24) million gallons cannot be accounted for any given month.

Daniel would now have the Council believe the missing water is not missing after all.  The off-topic revelation came during a Q & A initiated by a suddenly inquisitive Councilman Todd Lambert.

District 9 Councilman Todd Lambert

DISCLAIMER:  At this point you must pretend the entire discourse to follow was NOT scripted.

Todd Lambert: What about the water that we’re losing on a normal basis?  Have you found out where we’re losing millions of gallons of water?

William Daniel: Some of the water, we have determined, we’re not really losing.  It’s just kinda’ being recirculated and there’s some (inaudible).  The meter that’s actually measuring the water is, uh,…(a) check valve is leaking and it’s flowing back in.  So it’s (inaudible).  When it’s getting counted it’s getting counted as water that’s lost.  So, we found quite a bit of the water; it  hadn’t gone anywhere.

According to the August report (delivered to Utilities in October), over 53 million gallons of water were “Sent to Distribution System” but PUA only billed for 21 million gallons; “Estimated Leaks/Flushing” used up 12.6 million gallons, but PUA had no idea what happened to another 19 million gallons.  It was Daniel’s predecessor at the Utilities microphone, CAO Ken Dawson as Interim Utilities Director, who provided those numbers.

If a leaking check valve is recirculating water, and PUA is not losing 19 million gallons of water, wouldn’t that mean the total (53 million gallons “Sent to Distribution”) has been inflated by 19 millions gallons?  Which would mean PUA is only sending 34 million gallons to “Distribution,” just over one million gallons per day, nowhere near sufficient to provide water to a 17,000-acre Industrial Overlay Zone and/or east bank customers after lines are bored under the Mississippi River (the argument pitched by former Utilities Chairman Benny Johnson in favor of buying Peoples Water in the first place).

The sorry state of affairs had prevailed since the day in September of 2016 when Ascension acquired Peoples.  In early 2017 reports were made available to the committee…

$117,190.78 profit; 48,993,101 Million Gallon Water Loss in the same report?

before the position became so untenable, the lies so fantastic, that Dawson went silent for seven months until October 10, 2017.  William Daniel’s first time presenting PUA’s report was November 7, 2017 when he declared:

“19 million gallons unaccounted for…it is a very significant number.  I find it hard to believe that that’s a leak.  Surely someone would have noticed 19 million gallons of water…laying on the ground somewhere.”

Nevermind.  It was the leaking check valve, see.  Yeah, the check valve was leaking…

By the way, what’s a check valve?

It was good enough to satiate Todd Lambert’s burgeoning curiosity and he pressed on with a new line of questioning:

Todd Lambert: I thought the rates were supposed to go up after we purchased (Peoples Water).

William Daniel: (Noting that Peoples had requested a rate increase from the Public Service Commission).  However, when we bought the system, we have not yet raised it.  Several Council members have kinda’ tasked me with coming up with a Profit and Loss statement current (inaudible).  Which I am going to have for the next Utilities meeting (January 9).  And then I’m going to try to put together a capital improvement plan cuz’ we need quite a few improvements to the system.  And then, hopefully, with that information we’ll be able to come up with a price that, a rate increase that will satisfy those conditions.

Todd Lambert: I don’t think parish government can just keep on going in the red, paying out every year.  I don’t know where we’re getting funds from. The utility fund is not that strong…We were always told that water would make money.

William Daniel: I would agree; it’s never a good idea to lose money, whether it’s government or private business, government especially.  You’re spending taxpayers’ money.

Which shook Todd Lambert’s council namesake from his normal somnambulatory state…

District 5 Councilman Dempsey Lambert

Dempsey Lambert: (to William Daniel) You gonna come to the Utilities with some suggestions?  What is your projection to clean this up?

Daniel claimed any such projections would be premature.  After all, it took 16 months to get PUA’s check valve situation under control.