Consultant reports on westbank DPW to Ascension Parish Council

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief
Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants gives a presentation on the west bank's Department of Public Works during the Ascension Parish Council meeting held Aug. 5.

The Ascension Parish Council met online Aug. 5 instead of the usual location for the first meeting of the month, the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

Chair Teri Casso said at the beginning of the meeting that the decision was made due to concerns over the surge in COVID-19 cases.

All of the council's 11 members were in attendance. Parish President Clint Cointment, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week, was not in attendance and was recovering at his home, according to Casso.

Director of Planning and Facilities Ricky Compton stepped in and delivered the parish president's report.

He discussed code enforcement with the council members.

Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants gave a presentation on the westbank Department of Public Works.

She said District 1's Alvin "Coach" Thomas, who represents the west side of the parish, had received complaints from frontline workers. The employees had not been included in the first DPW survey and interviews.

Individual interviews were conducted, focus groups were facilitated, and an employee engagement survey was done.

"People strongly agreed that they liked the work they do," Slaughter said.

Feelings of teamwork and accomplishment were strengths, according to the survey and interviews.

Areas for improvement included: physical conditions, equipment problems, communication from the top down, feelings of disconnected communication, and pay raises and promotions.

"This really sums it up: Don't bring people off the street to fill a position that could have been done in-house," Slaughter said.

Recommendations included: tie the westbank DPW with the eastbank DPW, bring in a supervisor from the eastbank to improve communication and workflow, tighten the responsibilities of the executive assistant to focus on the Louisiana Watershed Initiative, provide clear communication on job postings and promotions.

Slaughter thanked Thomas for his assistance with the report.

Patrick Goldsmith

In an update on Parish Utilities of Ascension and Ascension Consolidated Utilities District 1, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Patrick Goldsmith said issues with utilities led to asking the auditor to conduct a detailed review.

Goldsmith expects to receive the findings in three weeks, which will then be presented to the council.

"When we finish this, we will have the answers," he said.

Utilities Director Gavin Fleming said a notice was sent with PUA water service bills for fee adjustments due to an error in commercial rates. Credits were made to accounts once finalized, he said, and no residential rates were adjusted.

"We're back to operating as normal," Fleming said.

At one point during the meeting, the Internet connection was lost. Corey Orgeron suggested a redo of any agenda items conducted since the public was unable to watch on Ascension21 or YouTube. For the record, the council repeated the actions taken during the outage.

Shanie Bourg addresses the Ascension Parish Council.

Registrar of Voters Shanie Bourg then provided an update, which included details on redistricting, reapportionment, canvassing the voter registration rolls, and the nursing home early voting program.

The council approved a car allowance, which was amended to be retroactive to when Bourg started the position.

Members also approved a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office for the early childhood development program at the Waguespack Center in Donaldsonville.

Lastly, the council approved an emergency declaration for the Manchac Acres road and bridge replacement.