Ascension panel rebuffs employee’s appeal

The city of Gonzales’ mayor pro tem saw his appeal to be reinstated to his job with Ascension Parish government denied Thursday night.

Terence Irvin, the recently appointed mayor pro tem of the Gonzales City Council and until recently the manager of the parish’s Environmental Services Department, met with parish officials in executive session for about 50 minutes on Thursday.

Following the executive session, the Ascension Parish Council voted 5-3 to uphold Parish President Tommy Martinez’s decision to terminate Irvin from his job with the parish government department.

Council members Kent Schexnaydre, Dempsey Lambert, Randy Clouatre, Teri Casso and Todd Lambert voted in favor of Martinez’s ruling. Oliver Joseph, Travis Turner and Daniel “Doc” Saterlee voted in favor of reinstating Irvin, who said following the executive session that he had no comment.

Vice Chairman Benny Johnson, who was running the council meeting because Chairman Chris Loar was absent, did not cast a vote. Councilman Bryan Melancon also was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

Martinez and Council Attorney O’Neil Parenton Jr. both said they couldn’t make any comments regarding the ruling because it was a personnel matter. Council members also declined to speak on the matter.

Kerry Williams, a Donaldsonville resident who said he’d known Irvin for several years, said the council should have reinstated Irvin.

“He’s a good worker,” Williams said. “He takes care of the trash really good. They should reinstate him. I think the people are making a big mistake, and the parish should make a great decision.”

Other matters coming before the council included:

TRAFFIC ENHANCEMENTS: The council approved two grant proposals that the parish is seeking through the state Department of Transportation and Development.

One is a $1.857 million grant for the Louisiana Mississippi River Trail Project, which is a proposal to build bike lanes from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. The second is a smaller grant worth $79,200 that would be used to improve road safety by placing additional signage on roads throughout the parish.

Both grants would require a 5 percent match from the parish, said Martha Collins, the parish’s grants officer. Including engineering fees for the roughly 5-mile trail project, the parish would owe approximately $295,000, Collins said.

Ben Laurie, the parish’s chief engineer, said the parish’s match on the signage project could be an in-kind contribution to DOTD, meaning parish crews could install the signs and the parish wouldn’t owe any money.

Collins said details aren’t finalized for the trail project, though it likely would originate near where La. 44 connects with La. 942 in Burnside. She also said she hopes the project eventually will expand to connect with River Parishes Community College’s new home at the Edenborne development on La. 44 with the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

“It’s a real good opportunity for us,” Collins said.