CLINTON — East Feliciana Parish Police Jury officials and Sheriff Talmadge Bunch have reached an agreement over funding for the parish jail, apparently ending a dispute that has been simmering for months.
An earlier agreement between the sheriff and the Police Jury expired June 30, and negotiations have been going off and on since then.
Bunch said Wednesday he plans to meet with jury President Dennis Aucoin to sign the new agreement Thursday or Friday.
Glen Kent, the jury’s parish manager, said the new agreement represents a compromise.
The Sheriff’s Office has been sharing expenses for the jail for years because Bunch’s budget is heavily dependent on housing state inmates in the parish facility, including those who are allowed to participate in work-release programs .
The Sheriff’s Office bears all the costs of operating a separate building on the jail compound for work-release prisoners, but the jury and sheriff have split the monthly cost of operating the main parish jail according to the average daily number of parish and state prisoners held in the facility.
The sheriff also provides a group of trusted state inmates to the jury to pick up litter on parish roads and help maintain jury facilities.
The sticking point in the negotiations had been the sheriff’s request to be relieved of the obligation, under the agreement, to pay a pro rata share of the insurance for the main jail, which the jury owns.
Bunch said his office had paid about $18,000 annually for the insurance, but he said he does not believe he is obligated to do so because the jury owns the building and the premium would be the same regardless of the number of inmates housed there.
“We’re not supposed to pay for the insurance. When I had the money, I didn’t mind doing it, but money is tight now,” the sheriff said.
Bunch also had asked the jury to give him a $1,500 per month credit against his expense bill for supplying the jury with an inmate work crew.
The Police Jury held an unusual Friday night special meeting last week to consider one item: “Sheriff’s revocation of support by the parish jail crew to the police jury.”
Minutes of the meeting show the jury voted to give Bunch until Friday to sign an agreement under the old terms or to remove all state prisoners from the jail by Nov. 9.
Jail Warden Ray Newman said the Sheriff’s Office did not intend to cancel the jury work crew, but the inmates were needed last week to help get the jail ready for a state inspection.
The new agreement drawn up Tuesday after meetings between Sheriff’s Office and Police Jury officials drops the requirement that Bunch pay for the jail insurance, but it doesn’t require the jury to give Bunch the $1,500 credit for supplying the inmate work crew.
“I think everybody realizes that expenses are increasing and everybody has to work together,” Kent said of the agreement, which he said came out of a meeting between Bunch and Aucoin.
The jury will consider ratifying it at a later meeting if Bunch signs it, Kent said.