Ascension Parish has a new Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer in the person of Patrick Goldsmith whose appointment was ratified by a unanimous council on Thursday in Donaldsonville. The council also created a Mega-Infrastructure Fund during 40-minute meeting devoid of controversy. In the wake of a most contentious meeting of East Ascension Drainage Board (comprised of ten council members) on Monday, and fervid recall discussions targeting a growing number of its membership, it was the calm before a still-growing storm.
Two more groups of citizens are scheduled to meet for the purpose of recalling two more council members in the next few days.
Residents angry at council members is not a new phenomenon, but the sustained and palpable animosity directed at a majority of the current group is noteworthy. So much so that President Clint Cointment called for civility during the President’s Report, echoing a written plea issued hours before Thursday’s meeting:
We all believe in people’s right to express themselves. I understand we are in a very controversial and charged environment.
However, under NO circumstances shall threats to anyone – elected officials or otherwise and especially not spouses or children – be tolerated in any form.
While as elected officials we all know we signed up for a difficult job, this type of behavior is completely unacceptable, and certainly should not be endured.
I ask that moving forward everyone please be passionate, but RESPECTFUL. We have a democratic process in place for a reason.
It was unnecessary since the furor over East Ascension Drainage does not cross the Sunshine Bridge to Donaldsonville, and neither will many east bank residents. Sparsely attended by the public, the meeting progressed with nary a voice being raised. Have we mentioned how inefficient it is to hold 12 meetings a year in Donaldsonville where one council member resides? We digress.
Who could argue against the new CFO’s qualifications?
Likewise, the Mega-Infrastructure Fund created by ordinance on Thursday seems like a great idea. It is intended as the repository of all funds generated/saved by voter approval of National Water Infrastructure’s acquisition of parish sewer treatment “assets” on April 24.
- $9.26 million from the sale of all sewer treatment assets to NWI;
- 75% General Fund excess devoted to subsidizing east bank sewer operations for decades (a $4.2 million annual average over the most recent deccade); and
- All funds currently in the water/wastewater construction fun (a floating figure that was going to satisfy a $15 million parish obligation when the disastrous 2019 version of the deal came up for vote on December 20, 2019).
The ordinance includes itemized projects eligible for Mega-Infrastructure Fund funding:
- Safety widening of roads
- Intersection improvements
- Bridge construction upgrades
- Highway interchanges (federal matching)
- The parish’s Move Ascension program
- Dredging of canals
- Improvements to Ascension[‘s Levee Protection Systems
- Construction of Regional Detention Areas
NOTE: The Recreation Department has already been made the recipient of all franchise fees from NWI, 4.5% of its gross customer fees anticipated to generate approximately $500,000 annually to start.
Dantin Bruce Development was granted a credit against its Transportation Impact Fee obligation incurred in its new subdivision, Windermere Crossing, in return for widening Cannon Road to 20′ over the mile, or so, stretch from Roddy Road to Hwy 44. In a companion ordinance the council added Cannon to its list of the roads eligible to receive Impact Fee funding, removing Hwy 75 (see image above) from the list.
“We have a road that is woefully under 18′ in width,” explained Planning Director Jerome Fournier who assured that Dantin Bruce Development will pay for Cannon’s initial widening.
Ultimately, the Cointment administration would like to extend improvements all the way to Hwy 431 east, and add a section to link with Airline Hwy. Inexplicably, because there’s always one, Councilman Corey Orgeron had to double down on his opposition to Cointment-proposed legislation to prohibit new subdivision developments on roads narrower than 20′.
Glutton for punishment that he is, Orgeron continues to call for some study determining the optimal width of roadways in conformity with industry standards.