13 months on the job, Parish President Clint Cointment has proven to be one tough negotiator, committed to “reining in the cost of studies and the consultants” who perform them. Case in point; East Ascension Drainage Board’s approval of the contract with HNTB Engineers to produce a Floodplain Management Plan came with a $2,670,850 price-tag, $775,250 less than the contract considered by the Board in January. Still unsatisfied, a post-meeting Cointment insisted the price was still $300,000 too high.
NOTE: It was then President-Elect Cointment, with an assist from Councilman-Elect Chase Melancon, who negotiated Ascension Sewer, LLC to a standstill in late 2019, avoiding a sewer treatment agreement which we believe would have bankrupted Ascension Parish eventually; all while the 2019 council seemed destined to approve that terrible deal against the clearly, and vociferously, expressed wishes of Ascension’s citizenry. A better agreement will be presented for Ascension voter approval on April 24.
On Monday Cointment expressed a strong preference for “the projects that actually turn dirt and save peoples’ homes from flooding…(insisting that)…”we look for savings wherever we can.” Such savings, the president pointed out, can go toward satisfaction of the matching funds required to receive any available state/federal funding. And there is going to be available funding, especially through the Louisiana Watershed Initiative, itself funded through a $1.2 billion federal appropriation.
“Sorrento Surge Protection…we need to have money for that. These savings could go toward that match requirement,” the president pointed out. “That project, no doubt, will save peoples’ homes (in Darrow, the Pelican Point/Hwy 44 corridor south of Gonzales, and Sorrento itself).”
Cointment willingly conceded the need for a Floodplain Management Plan, simply fighting to cut costs where possible. He did assert that Monday’s proposal does not take into account drainage laterals, nor does it factor in the effects of subdivision development on drainage patterns. HNTB’s proposed plan will analyze four watersheds:
- Bayou Conway/Panama Canal (including McElroy Swamp)
- Marvin Braud System (Bayou Francois, Grand Goudine/New River, and Black Bayou/Sevario Canal)
- Henderson Bayou (Bayou Pierre and Petite Amite River)
- Bayou Manchac (Bayou Braud, Alligator Bayou, and Bayou Fountain)
On January 11 the Board considered HNTB’s offer to produce the plan, comprised of seven Tasks, for $3,446,100. Cointment countered that it could be accomplished for $2.4 million with the parish performing certain functions in-house.
The last of those tasks:
Task 7: 20-Year Stormwater Capital Improvement Plan
Based on results performed for the FMP and prioritized list of strategies and projects determined in Task 5, the 20-Year Stormwater Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) will be developed. The capital improvements plan will include a Funding Plan which will consider current funding methods as well as other strategies and trends: $256,000.00
was eliminated from Monday’s proposal. President Cointment, who argued Task 7 is not necessary yet, urged the Board to eliminate the first task as well, preferring to accomplish it in-house. In January HNTB proposed:
Task 1: Project Management & Coordination
General project management and coordination as well as quality management, project meetings, steering committee development and meetings, project partners identification and quarterly meetings and elected officials coordination and periodic meetings: $227,900.00
On Monday the Task 1 price-tag had increased to $319,508 but savings were found in:
- Task 2: Data Collection & Acquisition was reduced from $596,000 in January to $502,669.
- Task 3: Design Criteria & Methodology went from $67,800 to $43,038.
- Task 4: Flood Hazard Assessment, from $829,400 to $532,647.
- Task 5: Identify Problems and Develop Risk Mitigation Strategies, from $1,128,000 to $889,155.
Task 6: Floodplain Management Plan actually increased from $311,000 to $361,646. President Cointment claimed that 60% of the task could be accomplished in-house.
Councilman Aaron Lawler motioned to add Task 7 back into the proposal with a second from Councilwoman Teri Casso. Lawler argued the task’s necessity if Ascension is going to be successful in obtaining grant money.
“Without the ability to go out for grant money, it’s a hollow plan,” the Prairieville councilman declared.
His motion failed by the slimmest of margins (none at all), a 5-5 vote. They were joined by Travis Turner, Dal Waguespack and John Cagnolatti. Voting “NO” were Councilmen Joel Robert, Corey Orgeron, Chase Melancon, Michael Mason and Chairman Dempsey Lambert.
The original (Tasks 1-6) was approved by acclimation.
On a purely positive note, the Fish Bayou Flood Control project was approved to go out for bid. A Cooperative Endeavor with Pontchartrain Levee District, which must also approve, final design is 90% complete. It is anticipated that bids will go out by the end of March.