Bill Roux: “Drainage should be a department…under the Parish President”

Bill Roux on February 11, 2009 when he argued for EA Drainage to be under Ascension Parish Government

Bill Roux was brought on to head up Ascension Parish’s Department of Public Works by his friend, and newly-inaugurated President Harold Marchand in 2000.  With the position came the responsibility to oversee East Ascension Drainage works pursuant to a longstanding Intergovernmental Agreement whereby the District contracted for services from the parish, paying a 4% fee for administrative costs.  For the second time in parish history Ascension’s governing authority (the Parish Council) will vote to remove a president and his administration from EA Drainage’s operation in favor of Bill Roux.

Tried once before, the most persuasive critic of the arrangement was…wait for it…

BILL ROUX

During another Special Meeting of EA Drainage on February 11, 2009 Roux had this to say about removing the parish president from administering east bank drainage:

“It’s ingrained into parish government because that’s the way it was set up.  We were going to separate, it should’ve been done in 1994 (when Home Rule commenced in Ascension).  Totally separate with an independent commission running the drainage board…

What we have here is a hybrid and I think it’s problematic and I’ll go a step further.

The governing body of the parish should be the governing body of the district, Roux declared.  The Drainage District should be a department under parish government with the Parish President having the same type of rights as in any other major activity in the parish.  Be it roads, or drainage, or wastewater, or anything else.

I’ve put a lot of thought into it and I determined that this is the best route to go.

Have Bill Roux’s views changed since 2009?

At Monday’s Special Meeting the current Board is set to consider a Professional Services Agreement hiring Roux to “Assume the duties of the Chief Executive Officer of the Drainage District until a search is conducted and a permanent CEO is hired by the Board of Commissioners.”  According to one resistant commissioner his colleagues anticipate Roux to be in the position for two years (or until the end of President Clint Cointment’s first term in office).

The first time a parish president was removed from operational control of the Drainage District, about midway through Roux’s 17-year tenure in parish government, did not last very long.  Purely partisan political decisions rarely do.

By 2006 the relationship between President Ronnie Hughes and the Council/Drainage Board had deteriorated beyond repair.  The governing authority was not going allow Hughes’ continued control of the biggest pot of tax dollars in Ascension (those revenues generated by EA Drainage’s .5% sales tax and 5-mill property tax assessment).  Hughes’ lone term in the parish presidency was 2004-07.

On December 21, 2006 the Drainage Board voted (9-1 with Prairieville Councilman Doug Hillensbeck in the minority) to hire Roux as the first General Manager over East Ascension Drainage District.  And Ronnie Hughes was out when Roux accepted the position on January 8, 2007.

The arrangement lasted until March 2, 2009 when the Intergovernmental Agreement between the Drainage District and the Parish of Ascension turned the reins back over to President Tommy Martinez.  Roux resumed his pre-General Managership duties, DPW Director which came with significant say so in all matters drainage (because parish DPW doubles as the de facto Drainage Department).  It was a post Roux would enjoy until early 2018 when he called it a career after a lengthy sabbatical.

The last EA Drainage Meeting attended by Roux in his official capacity was November 6, 2017.  When he retired annual tax revenues for EA Drainage were $21,000,000 (give or take).  Does anyone think East Ascension Parish’s taxpaying public got its money’s worth during Roux’s tenure?

The two biggest ticket items were Henderson Bayou Flood Control improvements, and two pumps added to the Marvin Braud Pumping Station.  Roux and EA Drainage were hamstrung in the 2000s by a series of violations issued by the Corps of Engineers

Presented as part of an overall analysis of EA Drainage by then CAO Cedric Grant in March of 2009.

several of which occurred on Roux’s watch according to Chief Administrative Officer Cedric Grant (who presented the slide above).

Many more major projects languished all the way through Roux’s tenure, and thereafter.

  • Laurel Ridge Levee Extension (keystone of the Follett Plan of 1982)
  • New River Dredging Project (permits sought in 1994, derailed by violations of rules established by the Corps of Engineers)
  • Frog/Fish Bayou Flood Control (first “analyzed” in 1997 according to EA Drainage’s official meeting minutes)
  • Bridges on Hwy 22 as gapping to allow drainage south (requested of DOTD in 1997)

$100 MILLION in project starts in 18 months, Cointment makes case for EA Drainage job

All four the bulleted projects have made significant, heretofore unseen progress under the current parish president.

And the worst disaster in Ascension’s history occurred on Roux’s watch.  Which is not to blame him for the ravages of August 2016…

A Timeline of Incompetence: Parish has failed to address drainage/flooding since 2016 disaster

but what did he do to improve East Bank drainage after that horrific event?

It is not as if the Council/Drainage Commission demanded much at all of the Drainage Director, too busy explaining away any blame that might be directed its way.  Typical of EA Drainage’s expectations is the following email correspondence between Councilmen Aaron Lawler and John Cagnolatti three weeks post-flood:

From: Councilman Aaron Lawler <ALawler@apgov.us>
Subject: Re: Developments
Date: September 9, 2016 at 10:19:38 AM CDT
To: Councilman Johnny Cagnolatti <JCagnolatti@apgov.us>
Cc: Councilman Todd Lambert <TLambert@apgov.us>, Councilman Oliver Joseph <ojoseph@apgov.us>, Terri Casso <teri@stelizabethfoundation.org>, Councilman Travis Turner <tturner@apgov.us>, Councilman Daniel Satterlee <dsatterlee@apgov.us>, Councilman Dempsey Lambert <DLambert@apgov.us>, Councilman Randy Clouatre <rclouatre@apgov.us>, Councilman Benny Johnson <bjohnson@apgov.us>, Kenny Matassa <kmatassa@apgov.us>
Bill Roux is supposed to be developing a plan to maintain the drainage system in the parish, specifically focusing on regular clean out and dredging of ditches versus the current system of doing so when a call is made.  President Matassa, can help get a status on this plan?
Additionally, I have been researching how best to remove, even temporarily, Bayou Manchac from the scenic waterways list to allow for dredging.

Aaron J. Lawler

Councilman District 7
On Sep 9, 2016, at 7:50 AM, Councilman Johnny Cagnolatti <JCagnolatti@apgov.us> wrote:
I agree.  We need to look closely at drainage.  In 1983 it was said “this will never happen again” but it did and far worse than anyone could imagine.  In addition, Id like to see all parish drainage ditches and bayous cleaned up and dredged if necessary.  I am in favor of a special meeting to discuss it.
John Cagnolatti

Even these relatively minor tasks proved beyond Roux’s (and President Kenny Matassa’s) abilities.  Why anyone would think Bill Roux is fit to “assume the duties” of Drainage District CEO is beyond our powers of comprehension.

 

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