Council fails to agree on civic center action

Mary-Glenn Smith

Town councilmen failed to reach a decision about options to purchase or lease the Ascension Civic Center from the parish school board during a special meeting Monday.

Councilmen discussed at length whether to lease the building and present the school board with a proposal to purchase the building and land surrounding it. They even discussed developing 16 acres the town already owns into a facility suitable for hosting events such as the town’s Boucherie Festival and the volunteer fire department’s annual trail ride.

The meeting adjourned with no action taken on a request by the school board for a purchase or lease agreement to be drawn up.

As tempers flared during the roughly 90-minute session, Mayor Blake LeBlanc asked Councilman Lionel Melancon to leave the meeting for speaking out of order. Melancon left the session, saying that he was going to resign his council seat.

Melancon favored developing a facility on the land the town already owns rather than investing money on leasing a property they do not own.

“Let’s increase the property value of the land we already have and let go on the property we will never own,” he said.

Melancon became outraged when Assistant Town Clerk Fern Barnett took exception with his idea, referring to the plan for development as nothing more than a “dinky park.”

Councilman Wilson Longanecker, Jr.  suggested another option for the Ascension Civic Center, presenting the school board with a proposal to purchase the civic center and the land surrounding it if the price is within the town’s budget.

Longanecker stated purchasing the civic center would be a “prudent investment,” for the town.

Council members agreed to give Longanecker and Councilman John Braud the authority to talk with the school board and see if they would be willing to sell the property and try to reach an agreeable price.

The other item on the agenda involved the town’s sewer system and the tying in of an existing trailer park with 16 mobile homes , and the  development of approximately 24 new homes by Grady Meloncon which would also be added to the system.

Engineer Lynn Chance of Glenn G. Shaheen and Associates Inc. was in attendance at the meeting, and stated that due to the current condition of the treatment pond there is no need to add people to maintain it.

Though the pond is functioning properly, Chance said that by adding just 16 more homes to the system it may “tip the iceberg,” and the system will no longer comply with DEQ requirements.

No final agreement was reached on whether the trailer park and new housing development could tie in or not, instead council members opted to get a second opinion on the sewer system from another engineer.