NEW ROADS — Term limits were the hot topic of debate again as the Pointe Coupee Parish Home Rule Charter Commission on Wednesday night held its final public meeting on its current draft of a proposed charter seeking to change the parish’s government.
Elected officials and residents throughout the parish had varying opinions on whether to set limits on how long elected officials can serve under the proposed charter’s parish president/parish council system.
The parish is governed by a 12-member police jury.
“They want to get your comments so that the best charter they put before the voters is the best one possible,” attorney Dannie Garrett told the crowd before highlighting the 45-page document the 11-member charter commission has drafted so far.
Wednesday night’s meeting was the final one the commission hosted this week to unveil its current draft to the public.
On Tuesday, the group talked to residents in the Livonia area, and the first meeting took place in Innis on Monday.
The commission intends to use public feedback from the meetings to make the last tweaks and amendments to the charter proposal before voting on a final draft June 6.
The commission will present the charter proposal to the Police Jury at its June 7 meeting. The jury is expected to set a Nov. 8 election to present the charter proposal to voters for approval.
As outlined in the draft, the charter would abolish the parish’s 12-member police jury system and replace it with an eight-member parish council and parish president — all elected positions with four-year terms.
The proposed parish council would be chosen from single-member districts mirroring the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board. Each council member would be paid $1,200 a month to serve.
The parish’s administration would be made up of four departments — administration, public works, parks and recreation, and finance — which would all be headed by directors appointed by the president — subject to the parish council’s approval.
The parish president will have to be at least 25 years old who has lived in Pointe Coupee at least a year, will earn $110,000 annually and have the option to use a parish vehicle or receive a vehicle allowance.
If approved, the first election for all the elected positions under the home rule charter would occur in fall 2017, the draft proposal says. The Police Jury would remain intact until the newly elected leaders take office Jan. 1, 2018.
Some jurors already are angling for a change in the proposal, which would push the first election back a year so they can complete their terms, should the charter be approved.
The jury — half of whom are serving their first terms as jurors — was sworn-in in January. Their terms expire Dec. 31, 2019.
Garrett, who moderated the meetings and served as the commission’s legal counsel, presented four options and cost breakdowns to the public outlining various ways the transition could take place should the charter be approved.
Term limits, how the transition from the police jury system should take place and what powers the president and parish council members should have were the hot topics of debate at public meetings this week.
James “Bado” Cline, a member of the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board, at Tuesday’s meeting made a push for term limits for elected officials under the proposed charter, saying he wouldn’t support it otherwise.
However, Sheriff Bud Torres, who also attended the meeting in Livonia on Tuesday, downplayed the need for term limits — especially for the parish president position.
“I think you get a term limit every four years you run,” Torres said. “You get someone in there who is really good and makes a career out of it, and then they get to the threshold and he’s out of there and you have to start all over again.”
Wednesday night, New Roads Councilman Kirk “Clipper” White shared a similar sentiment, saying he’s more comfortable with term limits for council members and not the president.
“I think you would get a broader selection of people wanting to run for the job if they knew they could make it a career and not be out of a job in a couple years,” he said.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.