When and where a new courthouse is built is small potatoes compared to implementation of Floodplain Management for East Ascension Parish. Regrettably, implementation of that long-promised plan is being delayed because of drainage issues surrounding the courthouse site; a case of the tail wagging the dog if ever there was one.
Tomorrow’s Parish Council agenda includes:
Approval to authorize the Parish President to enter into a contract with Quality Engineering to perform a regional H&H Study of the watershed on the property of the proposed Courthouse – $35, 200.00 (CAO Ken Dawson)
“H&H” stands for hydrological and hydraulic, the study of which should have been performed before deciding upon E Worthey Street acreage (adjacent to Ascension’s Governmental Complex in the City of Gonzales) for a new courthouse. The use of “proposed” in reference to the courthouse would seem to imply it is not a fait accompli.
The location was selected by a special committee, including Parish President Kenny Matassa and the judge who initially presided over his recent felony court proceedings, The Honorable Jason Verdigets. It was represented by Gasper Chifici, an engineer and former Planning Commission member, who appeared before the Council’s Finance Committee in August to recommend the purchase of 5.5 acres adjacent to the proposed courthouse for $450,000.
According to Chifici, “A considerable amount of fill would have to be brought in to raise the finished floor level of the courthouse” to the same as the Governmental Complex. The acreage being purchased would allow “mitigating stormwater impacts of the courthouse itself” by digging a second detention pond to one already dug. The Council appropriated $450,000 to purchase the acreage by ordinance adopted on September 6.
But fill necessary to build the courthouse is more than what is being recommended by HNTB engineers, paid a handsome price to produce a Floodplain Management Plan (finalized in July according to Ascension’s Planning Director Jerome Fournier). In addition to limitation on fill, the plan includes more stringent Drainage Impact Studies required of every major subdivision development, something sorely lacking for the past two decades.
Speaking of major subdivision development, no engineering firm has profited more than Quality Engineering. We suggest nothing untoward about the “H&H Study” of the courthouse watershed but, if one wanted to fudge the numbers…
Floodplain Management Plan, too long in the confection but finally in the can, is being delayed because the courthouse committee selected acreage unsuited to construction. When has that ever stopped development in Ascension Parish?
14 months ago Pelican Post, half in jest, made a prediction…
“I think there’s a couple of things we’re looking at here,” EA Drainage Board Chairman Dempsey Lambert interrupted Councilman Bill Dawson’s Q & A with HNTB’s Melissa Kennedy on August 6. “We need to be clear; what we’re fixing to do here, we’re not gonna double standard what we’re trying to improve here. There’s too many projects that are fixing to happen and I don’t want this to interfere with any of them.”
Chairman Lambert specified the new courthouse and Laurel Ridge Levee extension among those “many projects” which could be compromised by HNTB’s recommendations. He suggested another “working meeting” of the Board would be in order and asked HNTB’s Kennedy to set it up. Nothing but delay has come of it, at least publicly.
The failure to enact a Floodplain Management, 25 months and counting after the Great Flood of 2016 is irresponsible and/or incompetent. Intentionally delaying its implementation to accommodate a courthouse or anything else is something far worse.
Fortunately, Ascension has been spared another “Act of God” or named-storm devastation since that most awful August.