GONZALES — The Gonzales City Council passed its 2015-16 general fund and capital outlay budgets unanimously on Monday, in marked contrast to last year’s six-month budget fight between two factions of the council — a pitched battle that included five mayoral vetoes between the two budgets.
“Last year, our budget was a battle. Councilmen didn’t show up for budget hearings and dirty tactics were displayed that made the passing of a budget impossible for a ridiculous amount of time,” Mayor Barney Arceneaux said in a statement at the end of Monday night’s meeting.
“I’ve been criticized for vetoing budgets, but I firmly believe the public knew and agreed with my reasons.
“I know that the honorable men and women who hold positions in public safety throughout this city understood,” Arceneaux said, referring to cuts made last year to capital outlay spending for the city’s police and fire departments by Councilman Terance Irvin and then-councilmen Gary Lacombe, who later resigned, and Timothy Vessel, who later was recalled from office.
“It is with great pride that I sit here tonight watching as a new council, one with a progressive and forward-thinking mind, has passed this year’s budget with such ease,” Arceneaux said.
Neal Bourque and Harold Stewart have replaced Lacombe and Vessel.
The $10.6 million capital outlay budget will be funding some $3 million in road projects, $1 million in water and gas projects, and close to $4 million in wastewater projects in the new fiscal year, which begins June 1.
That budget is up from last year’s $5.6 million, increased through the transfer of about $5 million from the city’s general fund budget.
The city’s 2015-16 general fund budget, which pays for the operations of the Fire Department, Police Department, sanitation, streets and drainage and recreation facilities, is $14.7 million for the new fiscal year, compared with the previous year’s $14.2 million.
On Monday, the City Council also approved the purchase, for $250,000, of property with a house on it that’s surrounded by the city’s Tee Joe Park on West Orice Roth Road.
The purchase will give the city the opportunity to enlarge the park.
The council also approved the purchase, for $350,000, of a building formerly used as a Baptist church and as a technical college, at East Ascension and Bullion Street in the oldest part of Gonzales.
The enhancement and development of a downtown for Gonzales is one of the goals being looked at by the Baton Rouge-based Center for Planning Excellence, which is developing a master land use plan for Gonzales.
The City Council has looked at the possibility of a train station being built on the site, which will be purchased from St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church, if a rail line is established in the future between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Arceneaux said that, in any case, the property would fit in with future plans for downtown development.
Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.