St. Amant’s Councilman Chase Melancon should be the next chairman of East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District No. 1 (EA Drainage) when ten members, sitting Ex Officio as east bank Parish Council members, convene for the the first meeting of 2022. There is much to recommend Melancon; civility without artifice, respect for a frustrated citizenry and a good working relationship with President Clint Cointment’s administration foremost…and he wants the job. Plus, he is NOT Dempsey Lambert (whose tenure in EA Drainage’s chair dates back to September 2, 2014 with little to show for his feeble efforts).
Consider the failed attempt to strip President Cointment of his EA Drainage authority earlier this year. Lambert penned (sure he did; our money’s on Lawler) a letter informing the chief executive that his services were no longer needed. Public sentiment, fervently and furiously expressed, overwhelmingly wanted Cointment retained.
At least four colleagues professed total ignorance of Lambert’s intentions, for which they should withhold their votes for his continued chairmanship. The fact that Lambert so brazenly disregarded the clearly expressed will of so many citizens (several of whom are his constituents) should translate to his forced retirement from public office in October 2023.
More to the point, Dempsey Lambert has wielded EA Drainage’s gavel for seven years, three months without much to show in the way of accomplishments. Conceding the institutional inertia plaguing any 9-figure budget at the mercy of any number of regulatory agencies, what can EA Drainage tout in the way of improvements since Lambert took over?
Click on any YouTube video of an EA Drainage meeting dated from September 2, 2014 through the end of 2017 (when former Drainage Director Bill Roux called it quits). As Yogi would say, “It’s deja vu, all over again.” Like he was working from the same tired script, Roux promised permitting “in a couple of months” for a plethora of projects on the drawing board for decades; he had just met with the Corps of Engineers/Pontchartrain Levee District/DOTD/etc. and would be happy to answer any questions which were rarely forthcoming.
NOTE: Lambert ascended EA Drainage’s chair mid-year in 2012, replacing former Councilman Randy Clouatre who had assumed the chairmanship of the Parish Council two months earlier. Clouatre took the governing authority reins from Councilman Chris Loar who opted out to focus on his ill-fated campaign for Ascension Parish President in 2015. Anybody know where that guy went?
The highlights were few:
- A 7th pump at Marvin Braud Pumping Station, it had been intended for years;
- On Grade Construction dug some roadside ditches, installed some culverts in return for $5.25 Million (they charged $7/linear foot);
- Clearing/snagging of the Panama Canal/Conway Bayou;
- A ring levee around Astroland Subdivision in Darrow (that failed to prevent flooding in August 2016).
The lowlights as numerous, two standing out:
- HNTB’s $3 Million(+) Levee Certification/Accreditation efforts failed to deliver;
- HNTB’s first Floodplain Management Plan (begun in August 2017).
Mostly though, Lambert’s tenure has witnessed stagnancy, idling in place as millions are withdrawn from EA Drainage Fund, deposited into the account of (FILL IN THE BLANK) engineering firm. Take Laurel Ridge Levee extension, for example.
On November 3, 2014 former parish president Tommy Martinez related a recent conversation with the Corps of Engineers commander to EA Drainage. Asked about the most urgent drainage projects to Ascension Parish, Martinez deemed Laurel Ridge Levee extension “Priority No. 1, Priority No. 2, and Priority No. 3”
The project dates back at least to the Follett Drainage Plan of the early 1980s, a key piece of infrastructure to justify a perpetual 1/2% Sales and Use tax. And here we are, still waiting for the Golden Shovels moment. The most recent delay was due to a lawsuit filed by Livingston Parish, meritless litigation according to many.
Allowed to linger without any action at all for three years, President Cointment adopted the hardline with his Livingston counterpart…finally. Chase Melancon, by the way, played an important role in the suit’s resolution, which had the ancillary benefit of leveraging significant dollars for another drainage project.
Laurel Ridge Levee extension is not the only project left to linger for decades, jumpstarted under Cointment. Impatient as he is, the parish president tasked Ascension DPW personnel with undertaking part of New River dredging project, replacing a weir at Smith Bayou with a control structure. Another project tied up in litigation, the rest of that job was rebid and awarded a few months ago.
Frog Bayou improvements are a go after decades of inter-parish wrangling, with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for January 12.
Wholly new projects have also been proposed since Cointment was sworn in on January 6, 2020.
More importantly, funding has already been allocated in a multiple cases (Hwy 22 Gapping Project, Sorrento Storm Surge Protection, particularly). Any progress having been made, whether toward long-anticipated improvements or brand new ideas, have had nothing at all to do with Chairman Dempsey Lambert. In fact, along with a staunchly anti-Cointment faction (you know who you are), the parish president has been fought at every turn.
Then came June 28, 2020…
Clearly expressed public favor of President Cointment’s efforts, fervid support for his continued authority over EA Drainage operations were ignored by five members (with an emotionally torn sixth adding his vote). It should seal Dempsey Lambert’s demise, and ouster from EA Drainage’s chair.
We believe that Chase Melancon is clearly the best option to succeed him.