Gonzales council proposes to slash funding in order to gather monies for road study

On 3-2 votes Monday, the City Council approved amendments to the proposed general fund and capital outlay budgets for next year that would slash funding for the local economic development organization and the police department.

The savings are to help fund a study for a possible Interstate 10 service road, a project city officials decided to pull from the proposed city budget at the March 20 budget hearing.

The amendments, proposed Monday by councilmen Gary Lacombe and Terance Irvin, had not been discussed at previous meetings and seemed to catch the mayor and others on the council by surprise.

Lacombe proposed adding $800,000 to the capital outlay budget for a study of an I-10 service road between La. 30 and La. 44 on property that’s privately owned.

The council had earlier decided not to include the funding, saying there didn’t seem to be a justification for it at present. Lacombe, Irvin and Timothy Vessel — all of whom voted Monday for the amendments — were not present at the March 20 public hearing.

“Four or five weeks ago, we had a public hearing for three hours,” Councilman Kirk Boudreaux said after Lacombe proposed the amendment. “This is the first time we’re hearing about it.”

In part to fund the $800,000 study, Irvin proposed slashing funding for the Ascension Economic Development Corporation from $100,000 to $25,000.

His proposed amendment came not long after Mike Eades, the head of the organization, told the council that since its founding in 2006, the corporation has assisted and is assisting the city in projects totaling about $329 million in actual and projected capital investment, with new jobs projected at more than 1,000.

Lacombe also proposed deleting $175,000 for a dog park, cutting spending on Fire Department equipment from $240,000 to $128,000 and cutting spending for the Police Department by roughly $150,000, by funding only four new police units instead of the nine that Police Chief Sherman Jackson requested.

The savings would be moved to the service road study.

Irvin, Lacombe and Vessel voted for the amendments; Boudreaux and councilman Kenny Matassa voted against them.

The general fund and capital outlay budgets — for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins June 1 — will come up for a final vote in two weeks.