ST. FRANCISVILLE — The audience at the West Feliciana Parish Council meeting applauded Monday after the council unanimously approved an amended six-month capital outlay budget.
The $13.4 million budget includes an additional $600,000 in spending for projects such as the first phase of construction for a multipurpose rodeo facility, road overlays, tennis and 4-H barns, and upgrades to the parish office and courthouse.
A five- or 10-year vision for the parish will be discussed with the council and the public in the future, West Feliciana Parish President Kevin Couhig said.
Before presenting the amended budget, Couhig said he and the council had agreed to “disagree without being disagreeable” about whether the council was required to vote on the budget.
At the council’s Jan. 13 meeting, Couhig presented two parish budgets. The council unanimously approved the operational budget but did not pass the capital outlay budget for January to June 2014, citing concerns about the lack of detail provided.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting says discussion and a vote on the capital outlay budget was “contingent on” Couhig providing “specific projects with estimated costs and projected timelines for completion.”
Attorney Michael Hesse submitted a letter arguing that the capital outlay budget has already been adopted by default.
If the council fails to act on the budget, the parish charter considered it adopted as presented by the parish president.
By the parish charter, “acts” of the council include adopting a budget or amending a budget but not voting against a proposed budget, Hesse maintained in his letter.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Hughes, who advises the parish council, submitted a dissenting opinion.
Other business before the council included:
PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR: The council confirmed Couhig’s appointment of Jim Ferguson for Public Works director at an annual salary of $115,000.
Ferguson is chief construction engineer for the East Baton Rouge Public Works department.
Prior to the implementation of the new parish council form of government in December, public works issues were handled by former Parish Manager John Hashagen, who is set to retire. Councilman Lea Williams pointed out that Hashagen only made $85,000 per year.
Couhig responded that Ferguson’s proposed salary is comparable to what the engineer makes at East Baton Rouge Parish.
“This parish deserves the very best,” Couhig said.