C LINTON — A majority of the East Feliciana Parish Police Jury thwarted a move Monday to give individual jurors the authority to allocate money to municipalities for building or repairing infrastructure.
During the heated discussion, jurors spoke of road improvements rather than other infrastructure needs.
Jurors Chris Hall and Larry Beauchamp, who represent the towns of Slaughter and Clinton, respectively, were the only jurors supporting a resolution to give jurors the discretion to spend jury funds in the municipalities.
Jurors Ed Brooks, Jason McCray, Keith Mills, Louis Kent, Sean Smith and Dwight Hill voted to get an attorney general’s opinion on the proposed resolution. Jury President Dennis Aucoin did not vote.
East Feliciana’s municipalities receive some sales tax funds for street and sidewalk work, but Hall and Beauchamp said the money does not cover the work that needs to be done.
Slaughter Mayor Robbie Jackson said the jury’s past policy of requiring the towns to pay for any street work the jury does in the towns amounts to taxation without representation.
“Without this (resolution), I don’t need a police jury,” Jackson said.
Kent questioned why he had been told for years that the jury cannot include town streets in street improvement projects but “overnight” an attorney general’s opinion was found that says it is legal.
“I picked up the phone and made some calls,” Hall replied.
“To me, this is going back to the ward system,” Hill said, referring to the practice of individual jurors deciding what work is done in their districts. Police juries are supposed to operate on a “unit system” in which the entire jury decides the scope of road projects.
Hall also said the resolution simply acknowledges that municipalities are part of jurors’ districts.
In a related matter, the jury agreed to seek construction bids for a $2 million road overlay project this year that could see improvements to about 35 miles of parish roads.
The road list was revised after the last meeting, when jurors decided not to do any work to pave existing gravel roads.
At that meeting, Hill insisted that the jury had earlier decided against paving gravel roads until all paved roads get new asphalt surfaces.
The vote to support Hill angered Beauchamp, who had included work on a gravel road because much of his district is the town of Clinton, and the jury was not working on municipal streets.