Ascension Parish Council approves employee vacation extension

Michael Tortorich

The Ascension Parish Council passed an extension through Feb. 28, 2021, for employees to use their excess vacation hours.

Ascension Parish Human Resources Director Randy Watts addresses employee vacation hours with the council during the Nov. 5 meeting at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

Human Resources Director Randy Watts requested the extension on behalf of the parish’s employees during the Nov. 5 council meeting at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

“As you know, this has been a very, very strange year, a very difficult year that we’ve gone through,” Watts said.

The parish’s policy states any employee who has in excess of 360 hours of vacation time must use the hours by the end of the year.

“We have about 97 people who fall into that category,” he said.

The issue arises around the holidays and hunting season, which are popular times for employees to request time off, according to Watts.

“If all of these people are taking vacation time, it’s going to leave us short. It makes it very difficult on our directors and supervisors to provide a workforce we are used to providing for our parish,” he said.

The year has been quite unusual due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has been affecting the parish workforce since March. Also, it has been an active hurricane season.

Parish President Clint Cointment said he expects many employees will use vacation days in December.

“We’ll have to do a lot of shuffling just to put crews together,” Cointment said. “You can anticipate a slow down in December. I just want the citizens to know that we have a large amount of people taking vacation.”

Many employees held off from taking vacations amid the pandemic and the storms, the parish president added.

Council Chair Teri Casso said the council is grateful to those who put off their vacation time in order to serve the parish.

Without any objections, the motion to extend the deadline passed.

In other matters during the meeting:

-- During the parish president’s report, Cointment said the area was fortunate to dodge yet another storm, this time Hurricane Zeta.

He gave credit to the Department of Public Works and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for their efforts in preparation of storm threats.

Cointment said, hopefully, Hurricane Eta will be the last storm of the season.

Also, he extended his appreciation to Clerk of Court Bridget Hanna, her staff, and volunteers for doing “an excellent job” with the voting process.

“We see struggles nationwide, but I’m proud of the ease of our process in Ascension Parish,” Cointment said.

Additionally, he extended congratulations to council member Michael Mason, who has been recognized by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report’s “Forty Under 40.”

The 38-year-old works full time at LSU as an enrollment concierge. He is also an ambassador of the Ascension Community Theatre, and a representative on the animal services board.

“Michael Mason is always one to step up and offer a helping hand, whether it is in his own district checking on drainage issues or providing meals for DPW or OEP crews,” Cointment said.

Due to the pandemic, the ceremony honoring recipients of the award will be available online.

-- Harry Robert attended the meeting to go over the employee health insurance plans.

Robert said the program is basically the same as in the past with just some changes to certain pharmaceutical deductibles.

He recommended the parish stay with Humana as the service provider.

Also, the parish will continue to contribute $125 per employee to Health Savings Accounts.

Council member Joel Robert recused himself from the motion, which passed without objection.

-- Due to coronavirus, parish government had to cancel the traditional Thanksgiving lunch for employees.

Instead, the council approved a day off for employees.

-- The council approved of dedicating the 4-H building at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales to long-time manager Florence “Flo” Magee and former Parish President Tommy Martinez.

Cointment said a ceremony date has not been scheduled yet, but one will be held at a later date.

-- The council passed a variance regarding community sewer systems for Hidden Lakes subdivision.