NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury unanimously decided Tuesday to extend the sunset clause on its controversial drainage impact fee another six months instead of removing the clause from the ordinance altogether as it previously intended.
The six-month extension came after a lengthy public hearing Tuesday night during which residents asked the jurors not to amend language in the ordinance, which set the fee’s retirement date on June 30.
Several jurors were prepared to honor their request until freshman Juror Anthony Hurst offered the motion to extend the parish’s authority to charge households $2.50 each month for drainage service until the end of the year.
“I hear that if we ended this fee the impact is going to be people getting laid off, and I’m against that,” Hurst said. “Is there another alternative to maybe extend the deadline to give us the opportunity as new jurors to correct or restructure this program? Be accountable for what we are doing with drainage program?”
Hurst’s comments came after many residents said they didn’t support the Police Jury’s effort to remove the fee’s sunset clause because parish leaders in the past were apathetic to their concerns involving drainage problems on their properties.
Other residents, like Gail Hurst, who spoke during Tuesday night’s public hearing, felt the jury needs to curtail its spending and regain public trust before they ask residents to continue giving more money to the parish.
“There is a history of mismanagement here,” said Gail Hurst, no relation to the police juror. “Our money needs to be managed better. Give yourselves the opportunity to serve the people honestly.”
Juror Kurt Jarreau brought up the parish’s $20,000 decision to hire a third-party consultant to review its financial state and provide insight into how the parish should efficiently address its money woes. He originally had said he would vote against removing the sunset clause because he felt the parish needs that feedback from financial experts before making anymore budget-related decisions.
But he later changed his mind after discussion among jurors resulted in promises of improving the parish’s response to residential drainage issues and spending the rest of the year tightening the parish’s purse strings in the hope of gaining public confidence.
Tuesday night marks the third time the Police Jury has amended the ordinance since it was adopted in 2013.
The parish originally was supposed to retire the fee in August. But the jury in December 2014 extended residential billing on the fee until June 30 of this year.
Parish Treasurer Becky Mayeaux said previously the fee has generated between $260,000 to $290,000 annually since it was adopted.
On average, the parish’s drainage fund must support approximately $1.5 million in annual expenditures — of which $600,000 consists of drainage employee salaries and benefits.
Mayeaux says without the revenue from the fee, the parish would have to siphon funds from its already strained general fund.
Extending the sunset clause until December also will help the parish chip away at the more than $500,000 annual deficit plaguing the fund that supports operations at the parish prison, officials have said.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.