East Ascension Drainage members pledge to work toward compromise

Staff Report

Five Ascension Parish Council members, who serve on the East Ascension Drainage Commission, released a joint statement July 9 concerning changes approved last month.

East Ascension Drainage Commission held a special meeting June 28. The board voted to oust Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment and establish a Chief Executive Officer position for eastbank drainage.

Members included were John Cagnolatti, Teri Casso, Dempsey Lambert, Aaron Lawler, and Corey Orgeron.

The statement was as follows:

"The changes approved at last month’s East Ascension Drainage District’s meeting were made with the best interests of the citizens of our growing parish in mind.

We believe – and have heard from many of our constituents – that the system in place did not produce consistent drainage maintenance, nor did it effectively advance strategic, long-term planning and execution of drainage projects to protect the people and property of Ascension Parish.

We continue to hear from residents on all sides of this important issue – and we are taking action. We pledge to work with the Parish President towards a compromise that will result in improved efficiency and long-term policies that are sustainable, science-based solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s issues.

Both short and long-term maintenance plans must be a priority and address concerns of residents and businesses across the parish.

At the same time, we must broaden our focus to include planning and engineering work for much-needed improvements that allow us to be flexible in anticipating and responding to the needs of the parish.

These improvements will continue to benefit future generations. It is time for East Ascension Drainage to move away from this political model resulting in priorities that change with election cycles.

This outdated effort has not served us well and has not kept up with the growth of the Parish. To be successful, science must drive our efforts. Change is hard and our citizens are right to demand better.

We believe that, after moving away from this outdated model, you will see the positive results you deserve."

Some citizens have opposed the council's recent actions. A recall effort has been brewing over recent days.

Six separate groups have organized recall efforts of the aforementioned five members and District 9's Dal Waguespack.

The groups have scheduled a meeting for July 11 at 5 p.m. to be held at the VFW Hall on Churchpoint Road, Gonzales.

Over the weekend, District 11's Michael Mason brainstormed five ideas for an action plan.

The first step would be to reinstated the parish president as drainage director immediately and begin the search for a drainage engineer with hydrology experience to help lead the long-term plan with suggestions of HNTB's floodplain study.

Secondly, he proposed having a new drainage engineer develop a short-term maintenance plan in conjunction with the current work order system. Also, work with the council and Planning and Zoning to improve codes, and determine high-risk areas and limit development through regulations and fees.

Third, he suggested working with experts to take a regional approach to securing funding and grants for infrastructure.

Fourth would be to identify older subdivisions in need of updated culverts, retention ponds, and other measures. 

Lastly, determine which waterways the parish can dredge and which ones would need to be contracted out.