Like each of my colleagues on East Ascension Drainage Board, as well as President Clint Cointment’s administration, the news of Sorrento’s legal action against the Board caught me by total surprise. As Sorrento’s representative on Ascension’s Parish Council, which comes with additional duties as a commissioner on EA Drainage, I would have expected some notice of Mayor Mike Lambert’s intention which could have avoided the impasse we find ourselves at now.
I urge the town to dismiss its lawsuit so that important drainage improvement projects might resume.
Mayor Lambert’s suit alleges, “the Town of Sorrento sent correspondence seeking acknowledgement by the District that it is obligated to clean and maintain the roadside ditches and culverts within the municipal boundaries of the Town…”
The fact of the matter is that Ascension Parish crews began digging roadside ditches on Brittany Street prior to the COVID-19 emergency proclamation being issued by the governor. That’s when President Cointment delayed nearly $45 million in projects until expected decreases in revenue could be assessed. That was a demonstration of the parish’s willingness to work toward an agreement with Sorrento.
It is my understanding, from communication with Ascension’s drainage department, that the parish was set to proceed with “digging out the A/B/C ditches” with equipment scheduled for mobilization on Tuesday. According to those sources (whose identity I will not disclose during the pendency of the lawsuit), Mayor Lambert was made aware of those plans. Unfortunately, that effort was postponed as a direct result of his lawsuit.
I say “his lawsuit” because, according to a majority of Sorrento’s council Mayor Lambert acted unilaterally in filing the suit on Monday. None of which matters except for the question of whether the lawsuit must be prosecuted to its full conclusion which, even if successful, will do NOTHING to move any project for the benefit of a long-suffering citizenry of Sorrento.
My goal, in writing this letter and as a representative of that citizenry, is to put aside this pointless bickering and move forward with drainage projects. Sorrento’s drainage issues are many and have persisted for decades. Certain of those issues were actively being addressed (see reference to A/B/C ditches above)…until the lawsuit was filed. The parish has applied for a mitigation grant to enlarge Sorrento’s Pumping Station with Phase 1 engineering costs ($500,000) having been awarded toward an $8-10 million project.
Failure to recognize those parish efforts toward better drainage in Sorrento is an unfortunate misstating of events. I can only wonder at Mayor Lambert’s motivation.
To be blunt, many of my EA Drainage colleagues took grave offense at Mayor Lambert’s lawsuit. These petty politics, whoever you choose to believe is right/wrong, must be put aside because there is important work to be done. What gets lost in all this is that drainage projects beneficial to Sorrento also improve drainage for much of Ascension Parish outside the town limits.
My efforts will be devoted to getting those projects done, along with roadside ditch cleaning and culvert maintenance in Sorrento. There will need to be some trust on both sides. I encourage every elected official who cares about improving drainage, inside the town and without, to join me.
Joel Robert, District 2 Councilman