President touts $1 million savings on drainage plan
During the Jan. 11 East Ascension Drainage Board meeting, Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment gave a presentation concerning the development of a drainage master plan by the end of the year.
Some aspects of the plan did not sit well with parish council member Aaron Lawler, who represents the Prairieville area. He has expressed frustration over the lack of a sense of urgency for a plan.
In a prior WBRZ-TV report, Lawler said he has been concerned about East Baton Rouge Parish’s drainage plan bringing more water into neighboring Ascension. He blamed the parish’s administration for the delay in developing a plan.
During the meeting presentation, Cointment said it was his personal opinion that the parish was “bit a couple of times” on contracts in the past.
Cointment said the completed master plan would be available for the board’s adoption by the end of the year, and estimates as much as $1 million in savings by handling more work in-house with parish employees.
Prior to the meeting, the president released a statement supporting the development of the plan.
“I promised the taxpayers of Ascension Parish that I would do everything in my power to stop the wasteful spending on studies after studies,” Cointment wrote. “The days of engineering firms and consultants driving the direction and dollars being spent must come to an end.”
Under the plan, the parish would hire a qualified representative to develop a scope of work and serve as a liaison to the parish’s administration.
Cointment said close to $10 million has been spent over the past 10 years on data collection and modeling for various drainage basins throughout the parish.
He added that the scope of the work would include a list of deliverables, timelines, and a clear statement of drainage problems and proposed solutions.
Cointment said approving a $3.4 million contract for HNTB without due diligence would be a “misuse of tax dollars and a slap in the face to the residents impacted by the Great Flood of 2016.”
Following the presentation, Chair Dempsey Lambert entertained questions from the board.
“Thank you for the plan to have a plan,” Lawler said to open his questioning of the president.
Lawler took issue with Cointment bringing up transparency in the past.
“I’m just saying following greater transparency or continuing transparency. I’m not accusing anybody of doing anything in the past,” Cointment said. “It wasn’t an accusation by any means.”
Lawler went on to ask the president several questions, including about the time estimate.
“All I’m asking is for you and this board to have faith in this administration to complete it. If I don’t, that’s on me. If I do, and I come up with these savings, then we all win. Not only this administration, this board, but the people of Ascension Parish win,” Cointment said.
Council member Dal Waguespack expressed concern about what he saw as a lack of detail in the presentation.
“I have a hard time believing that we can recreate that wheel to do a better job,” Waguespack said.