OPELOUSAS — The Opelousas Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to delay a proposed agreement with the St. Landry Parish School Board to employ resource police officers at two city schools.
Police Chief Donald Thompson told the board that the city pays for one resource officer who works at both Opelousas High and Opelousas Junior High.
Under the proposal, School Board officials are offering an arrangement that would allow for two officers: One of the officers would be paid by the city, while the other officer’s salary would be the responsibility of the school system, Thompson said.
In an interview, Thompson said that last year, the city paid $41,000 to employ the one officer who was on duty at both schools.
Thompson told the board the officers are needed. Incidents requiring the officers’ help are an almost daily occurrence at the junior high school, he said.
Alderman Blair Briggs said he objects to using city funds to finance officers on school district property.
Briggs said officers riding in patrol units could respond to school incidents rather than having paid officers on campus.
Retired police Officer Paul Gennuso said there is a need for officers at the schools, but the city shouldn’t pay for them.
“They (school district) have money. You (the city) are strapped for money,” he said.
Gennuso pointed out the school district last Thursday voted to spend about $2 million for Christmas bonuses for all full-time employees.
Corey Levier said he doesn’t think uniformed police officers should be at the schools.
Levier said he opposes the city paying for school officers because the problems students have are not always resolved by having law enforcement present.
“Most kids get in trouble because of the home and the streets. I’m not saying having an officer is a negative thing. I’m saying the officers are not going to be solving the problem these kids have,” Levier said.
Mayor Reggie Tatum disagreed.
“I feel there would be a liability problem (with community volunteers). If something happens where you do need a police officer, there is always that presence. They (officers) are there to protect the kids,” Tatum said.
In another matter, the board voted 4-2 to have its General Services Committee discuss the issue of requiring customers pay a $30 delinquent fee when monthly water bills are not paid on time.
Kenneth Edwards said there are many residents who can’t afford to pay the late fees.
City Clerk Leisa Anderson said customers have 60 days to pay water bills. If the bills are in arrears at that point, the water department places people on a cut-off list that will lead to water service being terminated.
Other towns and water systems usually charge delinquent fees that are higher than ones charged in Opelousas, Anderson said.
Briggs and Julius Alsandor voted against sending the water bill matter for committee discussion. Melvin Richard, Tyrone Glover, Sherell Roberts and Jacqueline Martin voted “yes.”