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Ascension Parish Council updated on efficiency plan

Michael Tortorich

Dr. Christel Slaughter, CEO of SSA Consultants, gave an update on the efficiency plan to the Ascension Parish Council Nov. 19 in Gonzales.

Ascension Parish council member John Cagnolatti smiles during a meeting held earlier this month.

Initial areas of emphasis have been in the Department of Public Works, Mental Health and Public Health, and Finance and Accountability, according to Slaughter’s presentation.

She said the process began with a kickoff meeting, and throughout the process, she had unencumbered access to the departments.

“It was a good process, and I think we got some very good information,” Slaughter said. “I think we will be able to continue to get more information through additional interviews, focus groups, and surveys.”

Parish President Clint Cointment said he and SSA agreed they needed to interview employees at all levels.

“How does the $11.42 (an hour) guy feel?” he asked.

Cointment said some employees were “brutally honest,” even about his performance.

“We need to see more of you. You’re our leader. You’re not here. That was probably one of the consistent narratives given directly to me,” he said.

Council member Alvin “Coach” Thomas asked if the process included the west side of the parish, which is the area he represents.

Cointment explained the west bank DPW is its own entity and its experiences are different.

“The only thing that divides this parish is the river. I’ve heard that 200 times. But then there are things that have been said and done that don’t add up to what we’re talking about right now,” Thomas said.

Later in the discussion, council member John Cagnolatti said Ascension and Jefferson are the only two parishes in the state with a mental health program.

“We are kind of the envy of a lot of parishes in this state. They don’t have what we have,” he said.

Chair Teri James Casso said she was happy to hear about the cooperation Slaughter received from the administration and the council.