Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment said he and the Parish Council have had communication breakdowns and need to "hit the reset button" in their relationships to better manage flood protection work.

Though they haven't found that compromise yet, Cointment said, he believes there is a path to one and that he and the council members need to find it.

"But we need to keep meeting, keep being dedicated to that solution and, hopefully, we can get there," he said Monday night. "I want to. ... We need to hit the reset button. That easy button, you see in those commercials? We need to hit that and get back started working again because we did get a lot accomplished in 18 months, even with COVID."

Cointment offered the conciliatory words in a public address to the east bank drainage board, one day after he and a handful of council members met privately Sunday to seek a compromise on management of flood-prevention work in the parish.

The board, which is composed of 10 of 11 council members, voted June 28 to strip Cointment of his authority to manage the East Ascension drainage district and name an interim manager as his replacement.

The action doesn't take effect for 60 days under the terms of the parish's agreement with the drainage district. But since then, as talk of council recalls has gained some momentum, five of the six council members who voted to remove Cointment from running the district called for an effort at compromise, leading to Sunday's private gathering.

The Ascension Chamber of Commerce helped arrange the meeting.

Only five of the 10 drainage board members showed up Monday night, so the panel did not have a quorum and could take no formal actions.

But the board still went forward with aspects of the meeting that didn't require votes, including taking another round of comments from upset residents, including a man who has flooded repeatedly and said the council members have "kicked an anthill and the ants are mad." 

Cointment also disclosed that a parish tree clearing and snagging project will start Aug. 1 on Bayou Manchac once a new law takes effect that extends by five years an exemption on state scenic waterway restrictions.

Parish drainage consultants also later showed the status of new modeling of the Manchac area that could be used to develop future flood protections.

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Cointment also briefed the board on some of those possible longer-term, regional solutions to flooding in the Bluff Swamp and Spanish Lake area, including the construction of new drainage pumps to the Mississippi River and dredging Manchac. They came up in a multiparish meeting with U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, last week.

Acknowledging there have been ongoing personality clashes among him and some council members, Cointment also apologized again for his angry reaction to the Parish Council's vote June 17 on a development moratorium and urged everyone to learn from their own mistakes as well.

"I made a mistake and I said something that I shouldn't have. … That's on me. I got to do better with that," he said.

The moratorium is nine months — three months less than he wanted. It takes effect Thursday, but the parish Planning Commission is set to consider a variety of new neighborhood and family lots before the deadline tonight.

Moments before Cointment's comments about the private meeting Sunday with the council, Dal Waguespack, one of the members who voted to remove Cointment as drainage chief, called for him and other council members on the drainage board to reconsider that vote and others related to it next month.

Waguespack said he wants to have "a discussion" on them and is aware of the public's worries over the votes.

"After what happened a couple weeks ago, I just wanted to point out that I do hear you, and I do hear your concerns," he said.

Waguespack attended the Sunday meeting with Cointment and other parish officials. 

Waguespack said all the parties agreed they need to communicate better among one another and with the public and needed to provide the drainage department staff with more financing and direction.

Later, council member John Cagnolatti, despite interruptions from the audience, urged the public to give the council an opportunity to work things out with Cointment.

"President Cointment is right; we're right. We want to move forward. We ask you all to have a little patience. This is not going to be resolved tonight, tomorrow or the next night, but we will continue to meet," he said, adding the issues will be resolved.

Council members Teri Casso, Chase Melancon, Corey Orgeron, Travis Turner and Joel Robert were absent Monday.

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