East Ascension Drainage special meeting set, Cointment contract on agenda

Staff Report
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment

The East Ascension Drainage Commission is expected to meet June 28 at 6 p.m. for a special session to discuss the contract of Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment as drainage director.

The agenda shows a resolution to void the contract between the district and the president, which was brought by commissioner Corey Orgeron. Also, the agenda calls for the approval to establish the position of CEO of the district, brought by commissioner Teri Casso. Then, approval of a professional services contract between the district and William Roux LLC as interim CEO (brought by commissioner Aaron Lawler).

Finally, the agenda calls for an intergovernmental agreement with the parish to continue administrative functions as part of the four percent annual fee with additional conditions as to the separation of personnel and assets (brought by Casso).

A search of the Louisiana Secretary of State's business filings shows William Roux LLC was registered June 24.

William "Bill" Roux is a retired parish drainage director. 

In a WBRZ-TV report, Casso said flooding in her district has been a "disaster," and a drainage professional needs to be hired.

The attempt to remove Cointment comes just a week after a tense parish council meeting where council members approved a nine-month moratorium on new developments. Cointment was frustrated by the outcome, as he requested a simple "up or down" vote on his 12-month moratorium plan.

Prior to the vote on the nine-month version, he turned to the residents in the audience and said it would be a failure.

During a post-meeting interview with members of the media, Orgeron interrupted the president, saying "dig our ditches." The two briefly argued before Orgeron walked away.

Later in the WBRZ report, Lawler said the parish needs an individual with specialized knowledge of drainage.

Chase Melancon, who serves as Vice Chair of the EADC, said in a social media post June 24 that he received a call notifying him of the meeting at 1 p.m. to remove the president as drainage director.

Melancon said it was the first time he had been made aware that any such actions taking place.

"I can only assume I was intentionally left out of any conversations being had about the idea. So that's what I know, and not a thing more," Melancon stated.

Cointment released this statement via his Facebook page today:

The East Ascension drainage district board, which is made up of 10 of 11 council members, is expected to meet 6 p.m. Monday in a special session to end its contract with Cointment as drainage director and replace him with an interim chief executive officer until a permanent replacement can be found.

About a week after Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment balked at pursuing post-flood drainage and development changes because the Parish Council cut a proposed building moratorium by three months, a faction of local elected leaders want to strip him of his administrative power over most parish drainage work.

“Over 100 million dollars’ worth of projects started in only 18 months! The Administration and the East Ascension Drainage Commission (EADC) have been getting a lot of drainage work done for Ascension Parish!

I want to showcase some of the major items this Administration and EADC have accomplished in the past 18 months.

After years of legal delays, we have started the Laurel Ridge Levee Extension project. We have also received 42 million dollars of funding from the LWI for the Highway 22 Gaping Project, and have already begun working on acquiring the right of way needed. 

Just this week our DPW crews, with the approval from the EADC, started the dredging of New River. This is the first dredging project of this magnitude in over 2 decades!

Also, with the cooperation of the Administration and the EADC, our DPW crews were able to install the gate valve system in Smith Bayou. This was completed this month, and will significantly help with flooding in Geismar, Dutchtown and southern Prairieville.

We have the preliminary plans and funding of the Sorrento surge project which will be monumental for the Conway and Panama basin. The Sorrento station will also be upgraded. That will have a significant improvement for our Sorrento residents.

With the cooperation of Frank Bonifay, we have begun the Fish and Frog new lock system, which had been delayed for years. The Highway 74 project will allow the draining of the Bluff Swamp and Spanish Lake Basin into the Marvin Braud Basin for the first time ever!

We have also just recently secured $55 million dollars for the Marvin Braud Levee upgrades through Federal grants. The Marvin Braud surge protection project will prevent the Marvin Braud Station from the overtopping of waters, like what we saw happen in 2016.

Another first for our Parish is that we now have our own boat crews who are removing over 200 trees from our waterways with the help of the Chem Spray contract.

Beginning August of this year we will have successfully accomplished getting the removal of the scenic byway designation off of Manchac.  This will allow it to be cleaned of trash which has been there for years. This will also give us the ability to push for channelization and dredging Manchac, which will significantly help Dutchtown and Prairieville. We have seen the improvements of this type of work with the completion of the Muddy Creek channelization project by our DPW crews to help our Prairieville residents.

I’m thankful to Vice Chairman Melancon on finding a compromise that allowed us to save $775,250.00 on the HNTB study for a flood plain management plan. This will provide a flood plain management plan, 2D modeling of all our major channels and will be the framework on all of our future modeling efforts. This plan also includes working with the Administration and EADC to create 30 suggested drainage projects for the next 10 years.

And so many more small projects that have been completed that help improve drainage all over the parish.  We know there is still work to be done, though we feel that over $100 million dollars of projects in 18 months is a good start!”