East Ascension Drainage, parish president reach agreement: 'Time to move forward'

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment and Ascension Parish Council members who serve on the East Ascension Drainage Commission speak during a press conference Sept. 29 in Gonzales.

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment and members of the East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage Board held a joint press conference to announce they have reached an agreement on a new management plan.

Cointment had received an official notice of his termination as administrator over East Ascension Drainage on Sept. 23. In the letter, board Chair Dempsey Lambert notified Cointment that the termination would be in 60 days.

Previously, in the June 28 meeting, the board voted 6-4 to remove the president as drainage director.

During the conference held Sept. 29 at the Ascension Parish Governmental Complex in Gonzales, Cointment acknowledged the differences of opinions between his administration and the board members,.

"This is actually a monumental day. You don't realize what it took to get here," the president said.

Cointment pointed out that it took months to compromise and "find common ground" to get to this point.

"We all felt it was time to move forward together," he stated.

Cointment said the agreement includes the eventual hiring of a drainage director.

"We're looking for the best possible candidate we can get," he said at one point late in the conference.

Lambert also spoke about the negotiations, which he said went back to February. 

"We want a better quality of life, and a better working relationship," Lambert said.

The agreement is an addendum to the current contract, according to the president. It calls for better communication, better working relationship, and pushing drainage forward.

The parish council's Chair Teri Casso also spoke during the 17-minute conference.

"It was always a desire to move us forward together," Casso said.

Later in the conference, Cointment suggested the parish would work with SSA Consultants on the director position.

At the conclusion, Cointment and some of the council members were seen shaking hands. At times, the relationships between some of the members and the president have been tense.

Vice Chair Chase Melancon, who represents District 6, did not speak during the conference, but did inform his constituents of the agreement via his Facebook page.

He acknowledged that a lot of "housekeeping" will be done to address the legalities of the new agreement, which should be ready for the next drainage board agenda on Oct. 11.

"I know things have been frustrating and stressful these last three months, but I am glad to see all parties come back together with a path forward to best serve you," Melancon stated in the post.

Aside from Melancon, the other council members present at the conference - Casso, Lambert, Dal Waguespack, John Cagnolatti, Aaron Lawler, Corey Orgeron - have all been targets of ongoing recall efforts.