Martinez calls for?separate drainage and administration

Wade McIntyre
Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez

A contract presented by Parish President Tommy Martinez to the Parish Council at its regular meeting in Donaldsonville would leave the 2-year-old Drainage Department homeless if adopted.

Martinez told council members, most of whom sit on the East Ascension Drainage Board which governs the Drainage Department created during the  Hughes administration, that the parish does not have an agreement with the department.

The proposed contract is just a first draft and gives the council and the Drainage Board ample time to review it, Martinez said.

The document calls for the Drainage Department to vacate its current parish offices at the end of 2009.

Councilman George Valentine said he did not understand why the council does not just review the present agreement.

Martinez said the contract was not a controversial issue for him, but that it is hard for he and the administration to be efficient when they receive drainage calls but have no authority to handle drainage problems.

He said the whole point of the contract is how hard it is to be “divorced and live in the same house,” as drainage and the parish currently operate.

“It’s kind of an uneasy situation,” he said, describing the contract as being about creating separate entities.

Martinez said councilmen currently receive a monthly salary and a much smaller $65 stipend for Drainage Board meetings, although some councilmen in the lower part of the parish spend “probably 60 percent of their time on drainage.”

Only 4 percent of Drainage Department revenues go to the administration for handling its finances and human resources issues, Martinez said.

Valentine said having both departments housed in the same area might not be the best situation, “but it is working OK.” He said one reason they should stay separate is because drainage money might not have been spent as best it should have been in the past.

The East Ascension Drainage Board met Monday night after The Weekly Citizen deadline to discuss the proposed contract.

In another matter Thursday, the council adopted an ordinance raising the pay scale of lower paid employees to above the poverty level. Parish CAO Cedric Grant said about 18 percent of parish employees were affected by the pay hike.

The pay raise increase falls under a new system payroll and classification system for parish personnel. Currently the parish employees 252 persons.

Only Councilman Oliver Joseph voted against the ordinance, saying that he saw a trend going through the administration that was not “fair across the board” regarding pay and hiring.

He said only 32 percent of employees on the parish payroll were of African-American descent.