GONZALES — After a four-month controversy over funding for new police cars for the Gonzales Police Department — a controversy that’s involved three mayoral vetoes so far — it appears the issue could be resolved at Monday’s City Council meeting.
The five council members will be voting on an amendment to the city’s general fund budget, proposed by Councilman Gary Lacombe at a special meeting on Sept. 24, to spend $272,783 to buy and equip nine new police units.
The proposed amendment would move the funds from the city’s capital outlay budget to the “emergencies and contingencies” portion of the city’s general fund budget, the largest budget for Gonzales, out of which most of the city’s operations are paid for.
The total general fund budget for the city is approximately $14 million.
Lacombe has not discussed publicly why he made the motion two weeks ago to fund the cars out of the general fund budget, rather than the capital outlay budget, from which such purchases are generally made.
“I won’t turn down money,” Police Chief Sherman Jackson said in response to Lacombe’s proposal, at the special meeting that was called last month by Lacombe and Councilmen Terance Irvin and Timothy Vessel.
The nine new police cars represent roughly a third of the department’s 32 police units. Jackson has said the nine cars the new units would replace each have 90,000 to 100,000 miles on them.
The City Council also will be taking up the matter of the 2014-15 capital outlay budget, which Mayor Barney Arceneaux has vetoed three times so far since May.
The mayor made the vetoes largely in opposition to funding cuts made by Lacombe, Irvin and Vessel.
Among those cuts was one of approximately 25 percent to the Police Department’s capital outlay budget.
The mayor, in his original capital outlay budget request back in April, asked for $437,000 for the Police Department, which included $205,000 for nine Dodge Chargers, $52,000 to equip the cars and $5,000 to put Police Department graphics on the exteriors of the cars. That request also include $33,448 for two Harley motorcycles, and $70,000 for four surveillance cameras.
“My goal has always been the same. I would like them (the Police Department) to get all the equipment they requested, including the surveillance cameras,” Arceneaux said Friday.
“I’m going to continue to support the Police Department,” he said.
On Monday, when Arceneaux presents the city’s capital outlay budget to the council for the fourth time, the numbers for the Police Department’s budget will look a little different.
With Lacombe’s recent proposal to move money out of the capital outlay budget to the general fund budget for the new police cars, the proposed capital outlay budget for the Police Department is smaller now, at $174,478.
That figure still includes line items for the Harley motorcycles and surveillance cameras.
What’s unknown at this point is how Vessel and Lacombe will react to the budget now that they’ve been targeted for recall. On Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal set the recall election for Dec. 6.
Vessel and Lacombe could not be reached Friday to discuss the recall and the budget issue.
The city’s total capital outlay budget is approximately $5 million and budgets for such items as streets and drainage, capital road projects, wastewater rehabilitation and the Fire Department, in addition to the Police Department.
The council’s vote on the capital outlay budget would come at the following meeting, on Oct. 27.