City to renegotiate landfill deal: Decline in population could result in lower payments

Published 4:45 am Saturday, January 14, 2017

The City of Bogalusa is looking to lower its landfill payments to the parish by first finding and then renegotiating their joint agreement.

Friday at noon, at a special called Bogalusa City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to hire the law firm of Couhig Partners to renegotiate a contract that allegedly cannot even be found, but which apparently obligates the city to pay the parish a monthly rate based on a population of 30,000 people.

Rob Couhig, the firm’s founder, was present at the meeting and he outlined the city’s position. He began by saying he’d only been “in contact” with the parish in the past couple of days and he has not seen the contract.

“Nobody can seem to find a contract, both the city and the parish,” he said.

However, he said he understands that if it exists, it has a provision that breaks down landfill payments based on population size. In addition, since it was signed, the populations of the parish and the city reversed, with the city losing people and the parish gaining people.

“We, the city, are paying too much compared to what we should be paying,” he said.

However, Couhig told the council he had no idea how much that could be.

“For me to give it to you in dollars and cents would be guessing,” he said, although he believes the savings could be significant.

“It is a significant enough amount to be worth arguing about between the two political entities,” he said.

As it stands, the city owes the parish $1.7 million in back payments because, for years, the city has been unable to pay what it owes. The parish has been covering the debt for the city, but Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette pointed out that the debt still exists.

“They’re not asking for it, but by the same token, it’s in our books and we’re being written up for it (by the state) each year,” she said.

Couhig said he would probably assign Gary Rouse to the city and he told the council he wanted to “try to give it to the lawyer who can do it most effectively at the lowest rate.”

Couhig stressed to the council that he will work hard to make sure the city doesn’t get stuck with a big legal bill to add to its debt.

“We have agreed were we to be retained, our rates would be in line with what the attorney general would allow us to charge the state,” he said. “Those rates are a lot less than what we would charge normal clients.”

Perrette told the council the special meeting was necessary, as the parish and city are set to look at millage rates for the landfill next week.