Ascension Parish Council holds first meeting after Hurricane Ida

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The Ascension Parish Council held a meeting Sept. 16, which was the first since before Hurricane Ida.

The hurricane's ongoing recovery efforts caused the first regularly-scheduled meeting of the month to be canceled. 

At the beginning of the meeting, Chair Teri Casso said the council members hope it would be the last time the meeting will be held virtually via Zoom.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the council had returned to meeting in-person in Donaldsonville for the first meeting of the month, and Gonzales for the second.

Citing concerns due to an uptick in cases over the summer, regular council and committee meetings returned to virtual meetings.

All members of the council were present as Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment thanked staff members from both the parish and municipalities who contributed in efforts following Hurricane Ida.

He also recalled the fuel issues experienced in the aftermath of the hurricane. A shift in supply and demand, among other reasons, caused local officials to call a news conference expressing their concerns. 

Cointment also pointed to communication issues with the parish's energy providers, Entergy and DEMCO. Many in the parish were without electricity for at least a week after the hurricane.

Also, debris pickup has been ongoing and is expected to continue for months, according to the president.

Cointment thanked the council members who "stepped up and helped in any way they could" in the aftermath of the disaster.

In reference to picking up debris on private property, the president said property owners can sign hold-harmless agreements to have debris removed from private land.

Later, Ascension Parish Assessor Mert Smiley joined the virtual meeting and said any residence or business with extensive storm damage can contact the Assessor's Office either directly or online.

The council and president then discussed impact fees. During the discussion, as has been a problem in past virtual meetings, the meeting was stalled due to connectivity issues.

Once all connections were restored, the council passed a resolution to waive permit fees for reconstruction.

Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Rachael Baker Wilkinson, center, speaks to Ascension Parish Council members during the Sept. 16 virtual Zoom meeting.

Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness members also discussed its contracts with All South Consulting and ELOS Environmental.

OHSEP Director Rachael Baker Wilkinson gave the council a brief presentation on the costs prior to approval of the amendment.

Later, the council agreed to enter executive session to discuss Willow Lake Homeowners Association v. Ascension Parish. Council members continued the portion of the meeting privately.

After reconvening, Aaron Lawler made a motion to approve the settlement with the homeowners association for the terms discussed during the executive session. 

The settlement was approved with Corey Orgeron, Chase Melancon, and Michael Mason voted in opposition.