Former Public Works Director Bill Roux persistently painted a bleak picture, presenting the two-year backlog in roadside ditch work orders as insoluble. As it turns out, the problem was not so intractable after all. On Monday Ron Savoy, Roux’s successor, informed East Ascension Drainage Board that outstanding work orders would be accomplished by November (of 2019).
NOTE: Savoy is listed as “Director, Public Works” on three Employee Master Rosters going back to September of 2018 without being ratified as is required by a year-old ordinance. That should be rectified post haste.
It seems as though all that was missing was a plan of action and a few million dollars to hire On-Grade Construction for roadside ditch digging. Beginning the project in earnest six months ago, 231 delinquent work orders were pared down to 133 by March 29. The Board approved another $1,000,000 on Monday, increasing the contract amount for this “pilot program” to $2,250,000.
On Grade works in combination with parish crews addressing roadside ditches at present. It is going so well according to the un-ratified Public Works Director that in house crews will be diverted to off-road ditches/canals.
At present the parish’s Drainage Division employs 91 workers in 18 crews. Seven of those crews work “on-road” with five “off-road.” Savoy pitched the administration’s plan to hire five additional employees and devote 14 crews to off-road ditches, with four multi-purpose mini-excavators that can go on-road when conditions limit accessibility. He recommended two Right-of-Way Agents, two labor position, and one Project Manager.
Lack of servitudes limits access to certain off-road ditches.
Multiple Board members made mention of November 6’s renewal of 5-mills for EA Drainage by 67% of the east bank Ascension electorate (24,597 votes).
“The people asked us to do the work and we got the money to do it,” offered Councilman Randy Clouatre. “So, let’s go do it.”
Ron Savoy and his crews seem to be meeting that referendum’s call, employing a systematic, “grid-based” approach.
“And we’re not digging the complaint but whole stretches of roadway,” added Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee, explaining merely cleaning out a single homeowner’s ditch has little effect.
Which does not appease the Town of Sorrento which threatened a lawsuit over the parish’s failure/refusal to address ditches within its municipal limits. Sorrento’s attorney was on hand to plead the town’s case on Monday.
“Sorrento is desperately in need of roadside ditch clearing,” according to Matthew Percy who wanted to know if any of On-Grade’s $1,000,000 contract addition would be devoted to Sorrento’s ditches. If not, “what is the basis for the District refusing to clean out roadside ditches in municipalities?”
The Board went into Executive Session to discuss Sorrento’s demand, emerging to approve the following motion:
“To request a meeting between East Ascension Drainage (and its legal counsel) and Sorrento representatives to discuss the issues and potential projects with the town limits.”
Sorrento estimates that $350,000 would suffice to address all its roadside ditches.
NOTE: State Senator Eddie Lambert pre-filed Senate Bill 105 on March 27 which would add a paragraph to Louisiana Revised Statute 38:1764 (it’s the 1964 enabling statute which authorizes parish’s to create Drainage Districts).
E. Any drainage or sub-drainage district that requires leveeing and pumping to carry out the drainage work authorized by this Section, shall have the power and authority to enter into contracts for the performance of work, to purchase machinery and cause work to be done without necessity of advertising for bids, to perform all acts necessary to fully drain all lands in their district or sub-district, and to maintain the drainage when established.
If it becomes law it would eliminate any controversy over whether East Ascension Drainage could perform work within Sorrento and Gonzales.