Opelousas aldermen rebuff police chief on fund request

The Board of Aldermen rejected a request Tuesday night by Police Chief Perry Gallow for additional money to pay officers who have been working overtime to control drug activity inside the city.

Gallow asked the board for an extra $25,000, so he can continue to deploy increased patrol teams in neighborhoods where Gallow said drugs are a growing problem.

Alderman Reginald Tatum moved to support Gallow’s request, but the motion died for a lack of a second.

Following his presentation and the board’s brief discussion of the issue, Gallow briefly addressed the board.

“We will continue to do what we have to do,” Gallow said. “The officers on the force feel as though they should be paid and paid for every hour that they work.”

Gallow said he has divided the extra workload using six teams of six officers each that have targeted the most drug-infested areas of the city. He did not identify the specific areas of the city that police are targeting.

Gallow said the units of officers are in response to three homicides that occurred in Opelousas during January. He said it was clear that drug use was involved in each case.

“These teams of officers have been dealing with the street-corner drug dealers like we have done in the past,” Gallow said.

He said the teams of officers made 10 arrests in connection with drug trafficking, also seizing 31/2 pounds of marijuana, weapons and $2,200 in cash.

Alderman Julius Alsandor said Gallow should be able to handle overtime pay by shifting money from other parts of the city police budget. But Gallow said those funds are allocated for other purposes during the current fiscal year, which ends in August.

Alsandor pointed to a statement Gallow made to the board in April in which Gallow said he planned to “do more with less.”

Gallow suggested that Alsandor transfer already approved funding to pay the overtime and then return to the board at the end of the fiscal year to request the $25,000 if it was still needed.

Mayor Donald Cravins Sr. said he and Gallow discussed the overtime issue prior to Tuesday night’s meeting but couldn’t agree on the amount that was needed.

In other matters Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance to reduce the salaries of the mayor and aldermen. The motion stipulated that the salary reduction issue go before the budget committee before it is presented for adoption.

The board passed a similar motion several months ago after Cravins said he feels the mayor of Opelousas and the aldermen make too much money.

Cravins proposed reducing the mayor’s salary to about $52,000 from its current $72,000 and have the pay of aldermen cut by about $300 a month.

The alderman are each currently paid $20,000 a year.

Tatum and Cravins discussed the issue at the start of the meeting after Tatum requested that the item be removed from the meeting agenda.

The budget committee, Tatum said, should act on the matter first and then present a proposal before introducing an ordinance. Cravins said that isn’t necessary.

“You need to introduce the ordinance so that it can then be handled by the budget committee,” Cravins said.

The board voted 5-1 to keep the item on the agenda. Tatum cast the no vote.