NEW ROADS — The prolonged saga over an agreement between the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury and New Roads City Council on management of the William H. Scott Civic Center ended Tuesday night with the parish caving to the city’s demand that it be given the authority to hire temporary workers without prior approval of parish leaders.
Both sides can now move forward with signing a month-by-month agreement that will reinstate the Civic Center Commission, a five-member board of city and parish officials to oversee the facility’s operation and allocation of funds from the city and the parish.
In 2013, the city took over from the parish much of the day-to-day management of the community center.
Tuesday night was the Police Jury’s last opportunity to settle an issue that has stretched out more than a year through unsuccessful negotiations with lawyers from both sides, after New Roads last week threatened to walk away from any further talks if the parish didn’t accept its final proposal by Saturday.
“This has gone on too long as it is,” Juror Justin Cox said Tuesday night before offering up a vote on the measure.
“I really think it’s time to accept this and move forward,” Jury president Melanie Bueche added. “Nothing will be absolutely perfect.”
For the past several years, both the city and the parish shared in many of the Civic Center’s operating costs through the Civic Center Commission.
The joint commission, which included two members from the Police Jury and two from the City Council and the city’s Mayor Robert Myer serving as chairman, dissolved in May 2014 when the parish pulled out as tensions mounted between the city and the parish.
According to the agreement the Police Jury adopted Tuesday, both sides will recommit to allocating $50,000 a year to the commission through payments of $4,166 per month.
And the parish will fork over an additional $4,330 — half the amount the city said the parish owed the commission for a 2014 insurance payment the parish never paid when it let the previous agreement expire.
Things nearly fell apart last month when the jury tried adding language in a proposed agreement that would require the commission have a supermajority vote for any employment decisions for the Civic Center.
Juror Cornell Dukes was vehemently opposed to the city’s use of workers from temporary employment services to staff functions at the Civic Center.
Dukes, who serves on the Civic Center Commission, preferred the city hire full-time employees instead, despite previous comments from Myer that use of temporary employees is more economically beneficial.
“Full-time jobs make communities better, not temp services,” Dukes insisted Tuesday. “I just wanted the opportunity to, after six months, be able to come back and review the situation and see if we can switch a person to full-time if they’ve worked more than 30 hours in a week.”
His father, Juror Albert Dukes, also expressed reservations in the Jury’s decision, saying he didn’t feel comfortable pouring more taxpayer money into the commission’s fund because New Roads has been reluctant to release bank statements requested by the parish.
Cox retorted by saying he easily got his hands on the facility’s financial records after asking just one time.
“The city has taken over, and I think they’re doing a good job,” he said. “People pay taxes to have them used in the most economically efficient way as possible.”
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