Threat of flooding in Plaquemines varies based on which officials you ask

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PLAQUEMINES, La. -- As rain from Tropical Storm Harvey threatens a heavy rain dump across South Louisiana, Plaquemines Parish is on high alert given that parish’s longstanding vulnerability.

But there are different assessments of the threat depending on which branch of government you’re listening to.

Parish President Amos Cormier III, in an interview with WWL-TV on Thursday, said 20 of 22 drainage pumps are in operation. But he suggested that the parish was short on personnel to man those pumps.

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“My administration had requested from the council seven experienced pump operators,” he said. “Some of the council members blocked that. And instead they gave us one experienced pump operator and six trainees,” Cormier said.

The parish council, however, disputes Cormier's contention.

Councilman Benny Rousselle said that not only did the council approve the administration’s hiring request at the July 27 council meeting, they lifted the government’s ongoing hiring freeze to do so.

“Those positions were approved,” Rousselle said. “I don’t want to be concerned with what he (Cormier) is saying. I’m concerned about what the facts are. And the facts are that the pump stations are manned and new operators are in the pipeline to be hired.”

Rouselle and other council members produced a video clip from the July meeting showing the request for new operators by Drainage Superintendent Greg Simpson at a July.

“I need the seven,” Simpson said at the meeting. “The one that the hiring freeze lifted and put me in a position to get that filled and the six trainees.”

In the video, after the council agreed to the request, Simpson followed up by stating his intention to come back to the Council in January to discuss any future needs.

For any immediate help with Harvey approaching, Rousselle said other parish employees are authorized to work as backup pump operators if necessary.

Meanwhile, the parish is asking resident to remain on alert and reduce the risk of flooding by clearing debris from catch basins and securing loose garbage cans and patio furniture.