Cointment: Council members “manipulating process” in favor of Bernhard

Ascension President Clint Cointment

NOTE:  Ascension President Clint Cointment made the following social media post in response to Monday’s meeting of the Parish Council Utilities Committee.  The committee, comprised of Chairman Corey Orgeron and four colleagues (Councilmen Alvin “Coach” Thomas, Joel Robert, Aaron Lawler and Travis Turner who was absent Monday), rejected the Cointment administration’s call for funding for in the effort to inspect Individual (Sewer) Treatment Units.  The administration contends these units to be the real polluter of four parish waterways, all of which are impaired or on their way to being impaired according to every environmental regulatory agency.

Cointment stopped short of calling out any member by name.  But three members (Orgeron, Thomas, and Lawler) killed the administration’s proposal.

I regret having to make this post but my disappointment in Monday’s Utilities Committee leaves me little choice. The committee rejected my administration’s attempt to develop a program to inspect Individual (sewer) Treatment Units in the parish in a move that directly benefits Bernhard Capital Partners’ proposal now under consideration. That inaction will hurt every taxpayer in Ascension Parish where our impaired waterways have caused LDEQ to mandate corrective action.

It is not a matter of if, but when.

LDEQ has found that the sewer systems most polluting those waterways are those Individual Treatment Units (ITU). Bernhard’s proposal has no specific plan to solve that problem, focusing only on those customers (mostly) in subdivisions whose sewer is treated by community package plants.

We (the administration) believe a true solution to improve Ascension’s impaired waterways is within our reach, but only with some cooperation from the council. What I saw on Monday was the intentional sabotage by certain council members who are manipulating the process in favor of a private company which stands to pocket a billion dollars or more of our citizen’s money and governmental subsides. It was among the most disturbing betrayals by elected officials I have ever witnessed.

I, along with the hard-working public servants in my administration, do not intend to give up. Moving forward I will do everything in my power to explain every element of the Bernhard sewer proposal to you, seeking your input so that the best decisions can be made. This is the transparency I campaigned on for years, and I WILL DELIVER on that promise.

I would also like to take this opportunity to clear up a misunderstanding. It was brought to my attention that our proposal fee structure was misrepresented in Monday’s meeting. To clarify, starting fees for our inspection program would begin at $11.00 per month, increasing $0.25 each year for four years (up to $12.00). Then the fee would increase by $0.10 each year over the next ten years; from $12.00 in year five, to $12.10 in year six, $12.20 in year seven, and so on.

The fee structure envisions an accumulation of funds to offset future hook-up costs, but we will reexamine the plan to consider lowering the monthly fee component. All relevant information will be provided to the council and, we hope, some of them will offer meaningful insights. Transparency and full disclosure to the public is a must.

Parish President Clint Cointment.