Town of Sorrento takes a stand against their drainage problems

Darian Graivshark
Example of poor drainage in Sorrento taken by Councilman Schexnaydre.

Since the early 1980’s, the City of Sorrento was supposed to have a ring levee.

A ring levee would have been inside levee canals connected to Pump Station No. 3 and the flood gates. The levees would have joined Highway 61’s embankment to provide flood protection to the east of Sorrento. The ring levee was previously mentioned in Section J of the Follett Plan for Sorrento during the 1980’s.

In the plan, the ring levee was to begin on the south side of Highway 61, and then end on the north side of the city at Highway 61. However, no ring levees are present. With that, there is excessive flooding in the city, as well as debris in the canals that prevent drainage.

During the fall of 1984, citizens voted for, and supported, the sales tax that would be levied for drainage, ditches, pumps, and so forth. Following the passing of the tax in 1984, Chairman Braud signed a proclamation stating that the East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage No. 1 Proposition had passed.

The drainage boards, however, say that they are not responsible for roadside ditches. Despite this, Sorrento citizens voice that they have seen roadside ditches being cleaned and improved in other cities outside of Sorrento.

During the Sorrento Council Meeting on December 4, residents were able to voice their concerns and present comments about the drainage issues, following a presentation by Councilman Donald Schexnaydre.

“Where was the money spent that our citizens paid some years ago? There are no levees now, and there were no levees in the past. Likewise, there have been no improvements to our drainage,” Councilman Schexnaydre said.

Sorrento pays the same five mills tax that everyone else on the east bank of the parish does. There are claims of double taxation within the city due to this, because the five mills tax goes to East Ascension Drainage, who seems to have done little for Sorrento, while citizens pick up the slack by paying extra tax to the city to do it themselves.

In Photo B, taken by Councilman Schexnaydre, you may notice the left side isn’t as well maintained as the right side. The right side is maintained by the East Ascension Drainage, while the Town of Sorrento (left) is not. Although both sides pay the same tax, only one side seems to receive the benefit.

“We aren’t asking for help anymore. We are asking for people to do their jobs. We want to know who is responsible for this. We want an opinion from the Attorney General on whether or not the drainage board is prohibited from cleaning, draining, and generally maintaining the ditches in the City of Sorrento,” Councilman Schexnaydre said.

According to financial reports of the drainage accounts, they have allocated up to $49 million dollars in their bank account in the last year. So, residents of Sorrento question why they have any problems at all.

For the last seven years, not only have residents and council members gone to officials about the issues with their drainage, but they have not seen any improvements over those seven years.

“Since Kenny Matassa became Parish President, 177 new employees have been hired. Why couldn’t at least four of those new employees been hired for drainage? At this point, we’re just asking that the money for improvements be given to us directly so we can hire outside contractors ourselves,” Councilman Schexnaydre said.

“We have to look at the major arteries of drainage, though, in order to figure out where to go from here,” Councilman Randy Anny said. “This isn’t our first rodeo with trying to solve our drainage issues, and I want to see this get fixed. This is it for me, because I’m retiring after this year. So, this needs to stop.”

The meeting concluded with a motion to bring information to the Attorney General as to why the drainage board may (or may not) be prohibited from maintaining the canals and drainage in Sorrento only. They have also decided to involve Sorrento’s lawyer for research and their Certified Public Accountant to investigate where the money has gone.

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