Bossier City Council approves outsourcing water, sewer department

Published: Jun. 21, 2016 at 8:09 PM CDT
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Shyanne Calhoun got a letter on June 10th, letting her know her job would likely be cut.
Shyanne Calhoun got a letter on June 10th, letting her know her job would likely be cut.

BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - The Bossier City Council has approved to outsource the water and sewer division, cutting about 40 city employee jobs in the process.

The issue passed in a 4-2 vote at the council meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Those in favor of the decision were David Montgomery, Timothy Larkin, Don Williams and Scott Irwin. Against the issue were Jeffery Darby and Thomas Harvey. Council member Jeff Free was not present.

Just 2 and a half years after a major sewer tax hike, city leaders insist they needed to make this change to save the city money.

In 2013, the council approved of a 41-percent sewer rate increase after a study by Manchac Consulting Group and Burns and McDonnell assured the council another hike wouldn't be needed for another 10 years if they raised rates. But city leaders now say the enterprise fund is not paying for itself and voted for that same group, Manchac Consulting Group, to take over day-to-day operations.

At the meeting, Jeffery Darby pointed out the initial study to raise sewer rates was wrong, causing them to be in this situation.

But city council member Don Williams claims Manchac had nothing to do with the miscalculation when they told the council to raise rates in 2013.

However in November of 2013, it was two consulting groups, Burns and McDonnell and Manchac Consulting, who presented the study and recommended rate increase to the city council at a Wastewater Financial Planning and Rate Design Public Workshop.

Shyanne Calhoun is a city employee who is slated to lose her job.

"We hoped that it wouldn't happen, we just prayed and hoped, but it did," she said.

Calhoun got a letter on June 10, letting her know her job would likely be cut.

"I'm a little sad and upset, because I wanted to grow [in my job]," she said.

Calhoun's coworkers and supporters sat in the audience opposing the vote, including her mother Jennifer Calhoun who spoke to the council.

"I feel like Manchac is not only your favorite person, but also lining your pockets, they've been the one giving you donations," Jennifer Calhoun told the council.

Calhoun is referring to campaign finance reports that reveal Mayor Lo Walker has received $3,500 in campaign donations plus a more than $2,000 fundraising dinner from Manchac Consulting Group and its CEO Justin Haydel. Councilman David Montgomery, Scott Irwin, and Larkin have also received campaign donations from Manchac or its CEO.

In Louisiana, it is not illegal for elected officials to hire contractors who have donated to their campaigns.

But Calhoun still believes the money could cloud their judgement.

"How can you be fair to all of these employees if your pockets are being lined by Manchac?" Jennifer Calhoun asked the council.

However, the councilmen who voted for Manchac maintain they support bringing in the company to save the city money.

City leaders say the deal will save the city around $2.1 million.

"That is the oath we took to save tax payer money," said City Councilman David Montgomery.

Jeff Darby voted against the idea, citing several concerns including Manchac not having experience running city departments.

"So I'm really interested in other professional services that has that experience to do the same thing," Darby said.

Thomas Harvey also voted no, but didn't explain why during the meeting.

The agreement is expected to go into effect in July.

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