President Kenny Matasssa styled it, “innovative ways to do things” when the East Ascension Drainage Board approved an “up to $250,000 contract” with On-Grade Construction to help the parish with ditch-cleaning work orders. On-Grade will be charged with “simple ditch-digging,” tasks involving “a lot of footage” which is intended to free up parish personnel for more complex jobs like replacement of damaged culverts and the like. On Monday the move was welcomed by council members who have borne the brunt of public criticism over a “two-year backlog” of work orders.
Maybe that is as it should be. After all, EA Drainage Board is a free-standing body comprised of ten east bank Parish Council members, free to direct ALL major drainage activity east of the Mississippi River as it sees fit. Historically the board has approved an annual Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with parish government to administer its will (except for a few years during Ronnie Hughes’ presidency: 2004-07).
On-Grade put in the winning bid (out of two) on a June 15, 2018 “Roadside Ditch Maintenance” Request for Proposal. Its bid was $7 per foot.
Assistant DPW Director Ron Savoy called it “new (and) out the box,” viewing the contract as a pilot program.
“We’re doing something a little different, trying to get help with work orders on roadside ditch work,” Savoy said.
If all goes well more of the budget will be devoted to outside contractors. Savoy and Councilwoman Teri Casso both used that word, “innovative” to describe the practice. A generous descriptive which belies the lengthy delays in bringing the idea to fruition.
“This is something we asked for several years back…and the administration is bringing it to us,” Councilman Todd Lambert recognized. “Get these ditches cleaned, especially before these big rains come.”
Officially, the Atlantic Hurricane Season is June 1-November 30.
In March (of 2017) former Drainage Director Bill Roux admitted the two-year backlog. The plan was to hire additional crews, up to 25 new employees, to tackle the backlog.
“I have to give credit to Mr. Matassa,” pandered Roux on March 6, 2017. “We talked this morning and he said ‘put the plan together.’”
Three months later (14 months ago) and Roux told a compliant EA Drainage Board that the work was better accomplished by hiring outside firms; and multiple members promised an open check book. Better late than never.