‘We’ve got things rolling again’ — new Gonzales City Council restores funding requests killed by former council _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELLYN COUVILLION - David Guitreau and Barbara Duhe, shown at their December 2014 swearing-in as interim Gonzales City Council members by Judge Alvin Turner of the 23rd Judicial District Court, fill the seats left vacant by a resignation and a recall that reconfigured the City Council.

With the first unanimous votes on major city issues in a year, the Gonzales City Council on Monday approved amendments that restored full funding to its general fund and capital outlay budgets.

It means the Police Department will add new police units and buy the city’s first surveillance cameras and the Fire Department will be able to get the full number of breathing apparatus equipment it asked for instead of purchasing the equipment piece-by-piece.

“I am just elated the council chose to bring (the funding) back and put it in the right places. It’s all about saving lives,” Mayor Barney Arceneaux said after the meeting.

With the votes Monday, the City Council in effect erased the last year of budget battles among its five council members that culminated in the resignation of one member and the recall of another.

The city’s $884,761 capital outlay budget now in place is the same one introduced in April 2014 for the current fiscal year and restores more than $100,000 each to the fire and police departments.

Cuts to funding for those departments, previously carried on the council by Councilman Terance Irvin and then-members Gary Lacombe, who resigned, and Timothy Vessel, who was recalled, triggered multiple budget vetoes last year by the mayor.

Irvin, the remaining member of the former three-man voting bloc, voted for the amended budgets Monday night, as he had said he would at the last City Council meeting.

“I still think we need to concentrate on leveling our spending,” Irvin said after the meeting.

The seats of his former compatriots, Lacombe and Vessel, have been filled on an interim basis, until elections on March 28, by David Guitreau and Barbara Duhe respectively.

“Now I can get the ball rolling” on additional equipment, Police Chief Sherman Jackson said.

Under the previous capital outlay budget of $327,000, Jackson had moved ahead to purchase seven of nine police units he sought to replace older units and had shelved plans to purchase four surveillance cameras.

Now, he said, with a newly amended capital outlay budget of $437,000, he will move ahead on the purchase of two other police units, as well as the surveillance cameras.

Fire Chief Tracy Hammonds said that, with its now $447,500 budget, his department will be able to purchase all 28 of the self-contained breathing apparatus needed for the city’s firefighters, instead of buying the units individually over a two-year period.

“All our (breathing apparatus) units have a shelf life” and the older units were “coming to the end of their service life,” Hammonds said before the meeting.

The units, he said, “are one of our primary pieces of equipment when fighting fires.”

The City Council on Monday also approved amendments to the general fund budget that restore the city’s portion of funding to the Ascension Economic Development Corp. to $100,000.

It had been cut, by a 3-2 vote last year, to $50,000.

Before Monday night’s meeting, Councilmen Kenny Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux, who had been routinely outvoted over the last year, said the newly configured council is a return to better days for the city.

“The No. 1 thing it says is Gonzales is open for business,” Matassa said. “The council and the administration is back together, working for the progress of the city.”

“We’ve got things rolling again,” Boudreaux said.

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.