The Clint Cointment Flex Plan
Like most residents in Ascension Clint Cointment knows the problems parish has. But unlike most, he’s offering solutions to fix them. As a 2015 Parish President candidate, Cointment said he didn’t want to go through another parish president campaign season without saying let’s address all the issues as well as talk about the solutions. And with that he offers the “Clint Cointment Flex Plan.”
“It’s defined as bringing all the stakeholders together and having serious discussions about solving the issues, administration, council, government entities and most importantly the citizens,” Cointment said.
The traffic and road infrastructure is the number one issue in the parish. And short-term wise, because of the lack of parish dollars which is projected in the 2015 budget to be about $8 million, Cointment said the parish has to be efficient with that money and provide innovative ways to move traffic.
“The days of studies of studies are over,” Cointment said. “It has a true philosophy in reducing waste and making sure our tax dollars are reaching the ground to improve infrastructure.”
Cointment said the parish needs to aggressively resolve the left-hand turning issue parish wide and believes it is one of the things it can do efficiently without spending a ton of money. But also improve the safety by adding shoulders to qualifying parish roads.
The Parish President candidate said the leadership needs to look at taking some money from general fund and surplus money and realizing that $8 million is not enough to do the improvements “we need at this level on a year-to-year basis.”
Cointment also believes Ascension needs a secondary access from Edenborne to relieve traffic on S. Landry.
“I think it will be one of the best projects the parish would have done in a long time as far as building a road. It’s been a long time since the parish will get credit for putting a connector street in. It’ll help reduce traffic at Highway 30, which is severely needed,” Cointment said.
Ascension is no stranger to flooding either, and Cointment said the drainage problems have to do with the large developments that have come in.
“We have to start getting aggressive with the flooding issues,” Cointment said. “We now have to reevaluate and look at the choke points. We can no longer ignore the issue.”
He said the Astroland, Pelican Point and that area is handled by a gravity fed system and in order for it to work efficiently, maintenance programs are crucial. The Astroland area is often overtaken with even light rain and in 2014 the parish was exposed for lack of flood drainage in that area.
Cointment said you have to look at a long-term project on the Southern side by completing the levee system and tying it into the existing and leveling it off and putting in a pump on Panama and Conway in order to pump down for capacity.
“In drainage you have to have either capacity ponds or use existing canals. Either way, as more development happens you have make sure they are cleaned and turn the pumps on early enough to create the capacity,” Cointment said.
“We should be looking at when we turn the pumps on. If you think about the diesel spent in turning the pumps on early and pulling the water down and creating the capacity. Think of that versus shutting down the businesses or the schools or everything because we can’t get around the parish. That’s a small cost and we pay that in taxes for that reason, so we have to be more on a proactive stance on when we turn the pumps on.”
Cointment also said the parish needs to work with the municipals so their gravity-fed systems work well and “we have to work with our neighboring parishes to make sure we don’t push our flood water on them and make sure we’re all benefitting.”
Another hot-topic in Ascension has been the recreation. In 2014, the parish council voted to dedicate $200,000 of taxpayers dollars to promote a would-be tax imposed on the citizens to get them to vote in favor of a new recreation tax that would create a centralized recreation facility at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. Cointment said wasn’t in favor of that.
His flex plan would offer a short-term goal that would implement a maintenance schedule for the general upkeep of existing parks, work with residents and community leaders to get input on potential park improvements and long-term establish a capital park program to aggressively seek new funding for overall parish recreation with no new taxes.
“I was always an advocate that we needed to work within the budget we have for recreation,” Cointment said. “I think roads and drainage is a more important issue to people although recreation is important to me. I wasn’t in favor of having this mega recreation facility at Lamar Dixon sucking the entire recreation budget and then have our community parks go by the wayside. I like the community parks that the people and the kids can get to in their community, where the kids can ride their bikes to and walk to. I think those are better community-based programs. We have to first establish a good maintenance program on what we have now.”
Cointment said he heard the testimonies of the citizens telling the council there are lights out, bathrooms in horrific conditions and the lack of amenities. The first thing he thought of what’s the budget and he found that there is $3 million in the general fund.
“It’s not dedicated but it’s what we spent. In a four-year term that’s $12 million. Let’s say half gets eaten up in administrative costs, I think for $6 million we can replace light bulbs you think? Show me $6 million in improvements in the local parks around here. It doesn’t exist,” Cointment said. “What can we do to ensure tax dollars reach the ground in this parish instead of being eaten up by administrative costs, studies and engineering fees so the people of the parish can start enjoying and relying on the improvements of why we pay taxes in the first place.”
Cointment’s Flex plan offers solutions to animal shelter, parish-wide sewage, permitting and development, the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center specifically, and economic development. He’s willing to bring it to the table and share and discuss his ideas and learn others from the community and leaders. Especially when it comes to zoning.
“It’s important that philosophy holds true but it’s also important to have open discussions as well so they understand because zoning affects their property values,” Cointment said. “Any rezoning you do we need to have proper notification we’ve had in the past where they’ve rezoned property and their was no notification. That’s how you build trust with the community and work with it so everybody benefits.”
Cointment is in favor of retail zoning because it provides a line of entry-level jobs that “our kids out of high school and college need in order to sustain themselves until they find a bread-winning type of employment.
”Those are necessary business evolutions and processes to have these availabilities to have a car, insurance and pay those type of bills,” Cointment said. “Without that we have kids that are unemployed, staying home and out in the streets. We want them in the work force and being productive in society. In doing that we have to provide opportunity for them first. Retail is just one component of that.”
Cointment said being the only non-politician in the race affords him a unique ability to take a common sense approach: he’s not bounded by political organizations or political interests, and he has the ability to go in and immediately start paying the people back first.
“I think that’s an important difference. It gives me an advantage to work with anybody and everybody to get things done,” Cointment said. “The bulk of my support has come from within this parish and the citizens of the parish and it will stay that way because I want to pay the people back first.”
Cointment added: “I promise myself three things when I’m elected: be humble, don’t let the title go to your head. Yes, it says Parish President but I’m an administrator you work with the council and not over them. Second thing is to remember who put you there, not the money, the people. And the third thing is every important decision you make, pretend you’re the voter and analyze that decision. If I do those things on a daily basis I think I’ll do okay. I think I can raise the bar in Ascension Parish and whoever comes after me can take over an improved system, continue it and improve it from there and we can move the parish forward. With the growth that we have, which is a blessing, we have to be more aggressive on the governmental side.”