NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury has authorized small claims courts in the parish’s 12 justice of the peace districts to handle past-due utility bills.

The jury acted Tuesday night after Juror Justin Cox revealed the parish had more than $1.3 million in unpaid bills for garbage and mosquito abatement services alone.

The parish’s small claim courts are made up of a constable and justice of the peace for each of the parish’s 12 justice of the peace districts.

The jury will pay the courts an $80 filing fee for each case prosecuted, along with other associated court costs.

“We need to embrace this idea; we didn’t have this in the past,” Police Jury President Melanie Bueche said. “This makes it official we’re trying to collect this money. It’s something people will, hopefully, have more respect for.”

Bueche said the parish’s accountant is in the process of compiling a list of outstanding accounts to send to the small claims courts.

“Once you all get everything ready, anything y’all need us to collect, we’ll be ready,” Constrable George Miller told the jury. “People know we’re legit.

PART-TIME EMPLOYEE: The Police Jury settled the question of how a part-time employee was allowed to continue working for the parish two years after her position was nullified.

Jurors retroactively approved the employment of the worker during that two-year span.

The jury voted 8-4 in the case of employee Beatrice Greenhouse, who was supposed to stop working for the parish’s Utilities Department in August 2010.

But she had remained on the payroll up until Jan. 22 when the Police Jury temporarily blocked her from clocking any more hours after the oversight was brought to light by Cox.

EXECUTIVE SESSION:The jury went behind closed doors to discuss a pending public records lawsuit Cox filed against the parish administrator, director of public utilities and Bueche.

Cox filed the suit April 2 alleging parish officials had violated the state’s public records laws because they refused to release accurate documents he requested regarding residential utility accounts.

After the closed-door meeting, Cox said the Police Jury approved a motion to pay Cox’s $1,500 attorney fee.

Cox said he was asked to back off on the lawsuit after a judge said it was clear the parish had violated open records laws.