ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council shot down attempts to push forward changes to the parish’s new Home Rule Charter, one of which aimed at reverting the council from five members back to seven members.
The charter designates that the council will change to four members representing individual electoral districts and one at-large member. Currently, there are seven council members — a holdover from the former police jury system.
The failure of the proposed changes by various split votes Tuesday means that voters on Oct. 24 will be casting ballots to fill five slots on the council.
There were 17 charter proposals in all; some were pulled, some involved minor wording changes; one would have set an age minimum of 22, instead of 18, to serve on the council.
Had the council given its nod to any of the suggestions, the proposed amendments would have had to go before voters in a special May 2 election. Parish President Kevin Couhig said because there are no other matters on that ballot, the cost to the parish for an election would be at least $24,000.
Councilman Mel Percy said he understood there are two sides to the argument, but “I don’t believe we should bring these amendments to election in May.” Besides being costly for the parish, an election could lead to a potential lawsuit against the parish for not following the charter. “Let the new council get elected and then move forward. It will not look like we’re trying to get rid of the charter.”
There have been other attempts to repeal the charter, which voters approved on Nov. 6, 2013, by a 337-vote margin.
Lulu London, speaking against the proposals, said: “I think you all are going against the wishes of the people.”
Council members Melvin Young, John Kean and Leah Williams spoke out in favor of amending the charter where needed, saying voters should have the option of deciding whether they want to stay with a seven-member council.
After listening to the debate, Councilman Ricky Lambert decided not to support amending the charter so “voters have the opportunity to look at the whole picture” as originally outlined in the charter.
The council on Tuesday did adopt ordinances amending the election districts as stipulated by the charter and created voting districts following the four-and-one plan.
That now goes to the Secretary of State for final approval.