Ascension, Donaldsonville councils meet via video conferencing for first time

Michael Tortorich
A phone screen displays the Donaldsonville City Council online meeting Tuesday, April 14. Donaldsonville and Ascension Parish government held virtual meetings for the first time due to the coronavirus Stay-at-Home order.
Photo by Michael Tortorich

After cancelling meetings throughout the initial weeks of the coronavirus Stay-at-Home order, the Donaldsonville City Council and the Ascension Parish Council met last week through video conferencing.

The Donaldsonville meeting, which was conducted via Internet application GoToMeeting, was held Tuesday, April 14, 2020. 

City officials joined Ascension Parish government in utilizing an online format for meetings. Donaldsonville leaders plan to hold future Committee of the Whole and regular City Council meetings in the same manner until mitigation guidelines are loosened. 

Lee Melancon, the city’s Director of Community and Economic Development, assisted the Council in organizing the meeting online. 

The meetings are open to the public. Comments from the public are accepted through both e-mail and the chat feature during meetings. No public comments were received at the time of the meeting.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting consisted of approvals for contractor invoices. Several approved payments were for GSA invoices. One payment went to Boone Services for work on the sewer system.

Also of note, Council members discussed plans for working on city roads. In an effort to distribute improvements evenly throughout the city limits, the Council members plan to divide the work equally in each of the five districts.

Additionally, the Council approved of entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the Housing Authority to purchase a 2012 Honda Odyssey van.

This was an interesting adventure here,” Council Chair Raymond Aucoin said at the conclusion of the meeting. “This worked better than I thought it would.”

The Ascension Parish Council’s meeting, which is available for viewing on Ascension Parish Government’s YouTube page, was held Thursday, April 16. 

Parish government provided a phone number and e-mail address for public comment, and delayed the start of the meeting several minutes to field any comments the public might have. Neither of the methods received a request for comment.

If you’ve heard it once you’ve probably heard it a thousand times, there’s no playbook or how-to manual for how to respond to this emergency,” Parish President Clint Cointment said in opening the meeting.

Cointment said he has reached out to Dr. Loren Scott, an economic consultant who was a member of LSU’s Economics faculty from 1969 to 1998, about plans to eventually re-open the parish economy. Dr. Scott is renowned throughout the region for his knowledge of Louisiana’s economy.

Local and neighboring parish leaders have been in communication, but “no hard decisions have been made,” according to the Parish President.

Cointment went on to credit the work of the parish’s essential employees who have “put themselves in harm’s way” throughout the crisis.

Despite technical difficulties at times, Council members kept a light mood in the first-ever virtual meeting. At one point, Councilman Chase Melancon said he couldn’t hear a motion by Councilman Aaron Lawler.

Everything I said was brilliant. It was just amazing,” Lawler quipped in a deadpan delivery.

In closing the meeting, Councilman Cody Orgeron praised the work of the Council and parish administration.

I want to commend each of you for everything you’ve been doing this past month,” Orgeron said. “I’ve been following my fellow councilmen and councilwoman, as well as the administration. I truly appreciate the involvement each of you have shown to your communities.”

The Parish Council plans to meet again virtually on the first Thursday in May, according to Chair Terri Casso.

Coronavirus state figures

Louisiana surpassed 1,296 coronavirus deaths Sunday.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the state had a total of 23,928 positive cases as of April 19 at noon. 

A total of 135,079 commercial tests have been completed (6,425 tests by state labs). Hospitals report 1,748 patients with 349 on ventilators. All 64 parishes have reported cases.

Ascension Parish recorded 508 cases with 30 deaths. Commercials tests totaled 2,106 with 27 state tests. East Baton Rouge Parish leads the Capital area with 1,512 cases and 72 deaths reported. Orleans Parish has the most cases in the state with 6,000. A total of 329 deaths have been reported there.

Decorate for deliveries

President Coinment encourages residents to decorate their mailboxes, driveways, sidewalks, and front doors to thank delivery workers.

Ascension Parish General Manager Ricky Compton will decorate the parish’s Governmental Complex with a sidewalk chalk drawing of a delivery vehicle with American flags.

Residents can share photos of their decorations with Public Information Officer Martin McConnell He will post the photos to Facebook, and send out a press release about it.

Food distribution

President Cointment was among volunteers to assist in food distribution last week at The Church International’s St. Amant location. 

The Church partnered with The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Army National Guard to distribute items.

Donaldsonville City Hall remains closed

Though employees have been working, the Donaldsonville City Hall lobby remains closed to the public.

Cox and Entergy payments are not being accepted at this time at City Hall. Those who have dropped off their payments in the night box have been asked to retrieve their payments Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For assistance during those hours, call 225-473-4247.

Broadcasts continue

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 2 p.m., Mayor Sullivan has been broadcasting live to the city’s Facebook page

Also, he has been broadcasting Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m. on KKAY 1590 AM and KBRS 106.9 FM. Rebroadcasts air at 6 p.m.

In the event of an after-hours emergency, Donaldsonville residents can call (225) 806-8215. A secondary number has been set up at (225) 806-0470.