Ascension Councilman and Parish President at odds over drainage master plan
GONZALES- Two years after discussions first began about a drainage master plan for Ascension, there is still no plan.
Parish Councilman Aaron Lawler said there should be a sense of urgency, as the plan can help the parish apply for federal monies for drainage projects.
"East Baton Rouge Parish is about to start a comprehensive drainage plan based on their master plan and that will put a lot of water into Ascension Parish at a higher rate and higher amounts, and we don't have a plan for that right now," Lawler said.
The proposed plan would cost the parish nearly $2.9 million but could be used in the future to help apply for flood mitigation projects.
"You can't get projects without having a plan, and when we were in Washington DC in February, we talked to our senators and congressman and they said you need to have a plan," Lawler said.
Lawler blamed the holdup on Parish President Clint Cointment's administration.
"The administration hasn't done anything to propose a plan, counteract it, and I've gotten tired of waiting. we need to do something about this.>
Parish President Clint Cointment declined to do an interview but said over the phone he was not going to get into a back and forth with Lawler. Cointment said he didn't think the stormwater master plan was a wise use of taxpayer money. He said his administration can do much of the legwork instead. He plans to present his point at a drainage meeting Monday.
Lawler said with East Baton Rouge beginning to execute their plan that could concrete 17 miles of drainage waterways in Baton Rouge, waters will reach Ascension faster.
"The parish president thinks driving around in his truck, he is able to see all the problems and he can plan for this," Lawler said. "I don't think that's reasonable. I think we need a master plan and data."
The meeting will be held virtually Monday at 6 pm.
This evening, Cointment issued the following statement.
This administration strongly supports developing a Drainage Master Plan. My goals are the same as many Councilmembers. However, my administration’s approach is different. I promised the tax payers of Ascension Parish that I would do everything in my power to stop the wasteful spending on studies after studies. The days of engineering firms and consultants driving the direction and dollars being spent must come to an end.
On January 11th, my administration will be presenting a plan to the East Ascension Drainage Board that lays out a path forward to develop a Drainage Master Plan by the end of 2021. Under this plan, the parish will hire a qualified owner’s representative to develop a scope of work and serve as a liaison to the administration and always represent the best interest of the parish.
The scope of work will assess what data the parish has already been paid for in previous studies and provide an itemized list of what data needs to be collected going forward. Over the past 10 years, close to $10,000,000 has been spent on data collection and modeling in various drainage basins throughout the parish. We should not have to pay for this data twice.
The scope of work will include a clear list of deliverables, timelines and a clear statement of drainage problems and proposed solutions. Once the scope of work is completed, an RFQ will be put out for competitive bidding.
I believe that approving and signing this $3.4 million-dollar contract without doing our due diligence is a misuse of taxes dollars and a slap in the face to the residents impacted by the Great Flood of 2016.
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