Some of Move Ascension Road improvement program projects encountered a problem, the placement of utilities in the right-of-way owned by the parish by DEMCO. On Thursday, the parish council emerged from Executive session to authorize legal action against the company to force the relocation of utility infrastructure, impeding progress towards completion of the unnamed Move Ascension projects. Agenda item quoted:
a. Demco Violation of Ascension Parish Ordinance Code – Section 10-2 Dixie Electric Membership Corporation – Power Lines
This comes after the March 22 Council meeting, another Executive session whereupon (according to the minutes of that meeting): Councilor Lawler moved a motion to recognize that Demco is in breach of its franchise agreement by obstructing roads and creating hazards to the safety of citizens. The motion passed without objection.
Four months later, without an out-of-court resolution, Council passed the following motion proposed by Councilor Teri Casso at the end of Thursday’s meeting.
“That the Ascension Parish Government, through its Parish President and with all personnel under his authority, and the District Attorney take all necessary legal action to enforce the rights of the Parish Government of Ascension; and the Move Ascension Road Improvement Program to require relocation of utility improvements that conflict with road construction in accordance with relocation procedures established by DOTD. This would also include granting the power to call in subject matter experts at trial.
The DOTD eminent domain power, found in Louisiana Revised Statute 48:441 et seq., as well as State Administrative Code: Title 70:II-529, includes the power to force the relocation of utilities. The statutory language, dense to the point of being indecipherable to this layman, includes language that appears to indicate that the utility provider bears the cost of relocation if, indeed, the material is in a right of way owned by the parish. Good thinking, the motion “gives the power to seek subject matter experts”.
Demco’s franchise agreement (referred to in Thursday’s agenda item as Section 10-2 above), beginning in 1941, includes a term of 99 years.
SECTION 1. Be it ordered by the Jury of Police of the Parish of Ascension, State of Louisiana, in regular session called this first day of April, 1941, that the right, privilege, and franchise be hereby granted to the Dixie Electric Membership Corporation, its successors, assigns or agents, for a period of ninety-nine (99) years from such date, to construct, operate and maintain across, along and/or above streets, avenues, parkways, lanes, arteries, roads, bridges, public lands and properties within the parish boundaries of Ascension, State of Louisiana, as the Dixie Electric Membership Corporation may choose, power lines with all necessary or desirable outbuildings including poles, wires, towers, transmission lines and underground conduits .
ARTICLE 2. Be it further ordered that this right, privilege and franchise be granted upon the following express conditions:
That with respect to electric light poles and wires to be erected along any street or road forming part of the Louisiana State highway system, said wires and poles shall not be erected until after obtaining consent of the State Highways Engineer, and said work shall be constructed and maintained strictly in accordance with the requirements of the rules and regulations of the Louisiana State Highway Commission, and with the provisions of Act No. 95 of the 1921 special session of the legislature, creating the Louisiana Highway Commission, and any legislation amending it.
SECTION 3. Be it further ordered that whenever poles and wires are erected upon any highway or street not forming part of the highway system of the State of Louisiana, that the said Dixie Electric Membership Corporation, its successors , assigns or applicants shall erect said poles and wires in a professional manner, and in no way interfere with the drainage or traffic on said streets or roads, and the rights of the public thereon, and subject to the approval of the committee of the roads and bridges of the jury of police of the said parish of Ascension.