Ascension Parish government exploring cost-saving options

Michael Tortorich

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment tabbed Ricky Compton, director of planning and facility management, as the administration team member to deliver the president’s report during the Oct. 15 council meeting.

Ascension Parish Director of Planning and Facility Management Ricky Compton gives the president’s report during the Oct. 15 council meeting

Compton used a slide presentation to update the council on grounds maintenance, which he said will help improve the frequency of services once a contractor is hired to assist parish employees.

He estimated the cost of contracting mowing and maintenance would save about $150,000 over the course of a calendar year.

Compton went on to unveil other spots where the parish could be saving money.

“As hard as it is to believe, it’s 2020 and we’re still using forms in triplicate to request, direct, and complete work orders. Thankfully, we're no longer utilizing Morse Code. That's a John Diez joke…” Compton said, prompting chuckles.

In tracking utility costs, he found a water bill that went from around $20 to $102. Upon further investigation, he learned that a birthday party had been booked at the site. Apparently, use of a water slide ran up the bill.

Compton said he has been comparing parish parks with those in other communities around the nation in an effort to identify deficiencies.

Since the Clerk of Court is vacating the armory across from the courthouse in Donaldsonville, he said the space can be used for a multitude of activities, including an indoor shooting range, gym, or class room.

“Our possibilities are literally endless, and we’re looking forward to getting this program moving,” he said.

Council member Michael Mason inquired about the adding walking trails in the parish.

Compton said even in places like Hilton Head, S.C., which is known for its golf courses, the top amenity is its walking trails.

“It is our goal to implement some form of walking trail at every park where it’s physically possible,” he said.

Council member Dempsey Lambert asked for clarification on a roughly $200 discrepancy found with a particular parish telephone account.

“We don’t even know if we have a phone there. Again, there are bills being paid and now we’re going in and figuring out what they are and why they are. And what we can tweak,” Compton said.

Council member Chase Melancon asked about the possibility of creating new biking trails.

Compton said the grants he has looked into tend to expect such trails to connect to some sort of destination.

Council Chair Teri Casso said she began walking five to seven miles per day while staying in Alabama during the pandemic. She acknowledged that walking outdoors trumps a treadmill.

“They had miles and miles of beautiful trails. It was really easy to get into walking for distance,” she said.

In other matters before the council:

-- Gasper Chifici, project manager, gave a progress report on the new Ascension Parish Courthouse building in Gonzales.

He said the council chambers should be complete by Nov. 18, but most likely after the Thanksgiving holiday. Substantial completion of the entire project is set for Nov. 20, and a certificate of occupancy should be done Nov. 23.

A variety of agencies are expected to move into new spaces in late November and December. Chifici expects a ribbon-cutting ceremony to be set for early in the new year.

-- The council approved the introduction of the 2021 budget and 2020 amended budget.

The 2021 total budget was announced as $151,516,700. The projected ending fund balance was said to be $161,636,000.

-- The council approved Halloween trick-or-treating hours as 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31, keeping uniform with the City of Gonzales, City of Donaldsonville, and Town of Sorrento.

The government entities advise participants to follow safety measures due to the pandemic.