Vegetation management crews make up for lost time

Staff Report

When President Clint Cointment hired Todd Elisar to run the Parish’s Vegetation Management Department, he gave him one order: Get the job done.

Ascension Parish vegetation management crews cut grass in roadside ditches

But no one counted on Mother Nature interfering in the process.

In addition to their grass cutting duties, vegetation management crews also are responsible for maintaining the inventory of sandbags, operating tractor pumps located throughout the parish, and litter control.

Crews work to catch up on vegetation management across the parish.

Since late May, these crews have been focused on maintaining the pumping stations along Alligator Bayou Road. In June they were occupied filling more than 40,000 sandbags preparing for Tropical Storm Claudette. Frequent rain events have continued to keep them behind.

“I’m excited to say they are certainly making up for lost time,” Cointment said. “This week, grass cutting crews were out in full force and managed to complete 211 miles of roadside ditches.”

The weather has hampered them. Because of wet grounds, 90 percent of the work was done along roadside ditches. Once they think they can get off road to lateral ditches and major canals without rutting up properties, they will backtrack to catch up on those areas.

Officials have divided Ascension Parish into two zones for vegetation management.

Elisar and his staff have divided the parish into zones, which they then schedule for regular maintenance. Currently this work schedule involves every cutting tractor that is operating -- nine to 11 depending on manpower -- two hand crews, and two road sprayers. They are also manning two cutting tractors and a chainsaw crew with a bucket truck for priority work throughout the parish, for obstruction of view, or vegetation that is considered a possible danger.

Two additional road sprayers are working ahead of the teams in zones to be serviced in the following weeks.

Beginning July 20, a labor contract with Life House goes into effect, which will provide an extra crew to assist with grass cutting, freeing up parish employees for filling sandbags.

With current equipment, crews can fill 8,000 sandbags in a 24-hour period. It takes 160,000 sandbags to fill all of the containers that are placed throughout the parish.

“To further my commitment to providing transparency in all areas of this Parish, every Friday we will post where our vegetation crews have been and where they are going the following week,” Cointment said. “I look forward to expanding this throughout all of the services the Parish provides to help keep our residents better informed.”