CLINTON — Police jurors and two East Feliciana Parish businessmen traded accusations Tuesday without reconciling who is responsible for paying to shore up a gravel road used for logging operations.
The discussion came a day after jurors, on a 3-4 vote, refused to pay a Simmesport firm's $1,788 bill for road materials delivered to Bennett Road, where Billy Barnes and Dennis "Scooty" Aucoin, were logging a tract of land but found the road impassable for log trucks.
The special meeting was called to address other matters, but Barnes and Aucoin brought up the road work during a portion of the meeting set aside for public comment.
Aucoin, the son of former jury President Dennis Aucoin, said current jury President Louis Kent agreed with him that the road needed repairing and authorized him to purchase crushed concrete that was later spread with Police Jury equipment.
Barnes and Aucoin say they should be reimbursed because the road is repaired and can be used by other people who have hunting camps on the road.
Kent said he was told the loggers wanted to use another route, Boyd Road, and he asked the jury's road maintenance director to fix it, rather than Bennett Road.
Parish Manager Sonya Crowe repeated her position that individual jurors do not have the authority to direct the day-to-day operations of the parish, which she said is her responsibility, and that the loggers did not obtain a site-specific permit before they started cutting trees.
Crowe and Aucoin disagreed over the timing of the permit, but Crowe maintained that if the permit would have been obtained before the work started, the proper jury officials would have been in position to inspect the roads and determine if repairs were needed.
Finance Committee Chairman Chris Hall said he knows the jury's procedures were not carried out correctly, but he said he is "looking for some compassion" because he believes Barnes and Aucoin were acting in good faith.
On other matters, the jury voted to advertise for bids to replace a bridge on Carruth Road and approved a plan to give jury employees a one-time pay hike to end the year.
Hall said he wanted to reward jury employees for keeping workman's compensation claims low, which resulted in the jury's insurer recently returning more than $40,000 in a premium refund.
The state law prohibits public bodies from giving bonuses to employees, but Crowe said District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla had outlined a method by which the jury could legally distribute the money.
She said the jury would have to dedicate the rebate to salaries, give employees a 3 percent, one-time raise that would be paid in the form of a "27th check" for 2019.
After Jan. 1, the employee pay schedule would be changed to reflect 2020's budgets, she said.
Homeland Security Director Joseph Moreau, who is working on Federal Emergency Management Agency and state grants related to recovery from the 2016 flood, said he hopes work can begin next spring to demolish and replace the Carruth Road bridge.
The plans now call for a wooden bridge, as FEMA only will pay for the type of structure that existed when the flood damaged it, while state highway officials only will replace wooden bridges with concrete structures, Moreau said.
The state is paying the jury's 10 percent share of the construction cost, but Moreau said it may be possible to build a concrete bridge if the jury comes up with about $200,000 more for the project.