Financing a new jail continued to be the topic of discussion at the Evangeline Parish Police Jury meeting on Monday, April 4.
After the proposal to rededicate parish health unit and parish library funds was voted down on March 26th, the police jury has now been forced to go back to the drawing board to come up with another plan to fund either the construction of a new jail or the expansion of the current jail. Police Jury President Bryan Vidrine said, "If anyone has any other ideas on how we could move forward, I'm all ears. I know at one point we had talked about possibly adding on to the existing facility."
Police Juror Daniel Arvie, asked if a previous deal was still on the table that would consist of the sheriff assisting with payment of some police jury expenses until the police jury could build a jail? According to Vidrine, that is not an option at this time.
Vidrine suggested that the jury go back to the sheriff one more time to discuss what they can afford in terms of building a jail. If the sheriff can't work with those numbers, Vidrine said, "I think at that point we need to make a decision. Do we want to start talking with an engineer to start looking at expanding our jail?" Police Juror Kevin Veillon then added, "It's time to start moving forward before all the money is gone. It's time to move forward and do what we got to do."
In terms of moving forward, Police Juror Lelia Thrasher stated, "My biggest concern is if an agreement is made for the sheriff to pay what the police jury can't pay, will that carry over to the next sheriff." Legal counsel for the police jury, Jacob Fusilier, said, "Statute explicitly requires the jury to pay operations." Fusilier shared that if a future administration refuses to abide by the agreement and it's challenged in court, he "can't promise that it will hold up."
In closing, Vidrine said, "If we don't have an agreement by next month, we can't continue, because it's costing us $60,000 of our money that we could be using to go toward the jail each month. That's what we are spending outside the parish on inmates." If the police jury and the sheriff are unable to reach an agreement, Vidrine said they will move forward with hiring an architect to give them a price on expanding the current jail.
In other business:
Secretary Treasurer Donald Bergeron reported that a Fiber Cutting Ceremony will be held on April 11 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Evangeline Parish Courthouse. He also shared the 2 percent sales tax collections for roads and drainage projects were $362,056.30, which represents a year-to-date increase of 27.85 percent.
Joseph W. Deville was appointed as a board member to the Evangeline Parish Water District #1.