Gonzales council adopts budgets with new cuts, additions

The City Council adopted the amended 2014-15 general fund and capital outlay budgets Monday, but not before several residents asked the council to reconsider.

Councilmen Gary Lacombe and Terance Irvin proposed a number of budget amendments at the council’s April 28 meeting and the amendments were included in the budget after a 3-2 vote that night.

The two budgets came up for a final vote on Monday night.

Among the amendments was the addition of $800,000 for a study of an Interstate 10 service road between La. 30 and La. 44, the cutting of funding to the Ascension Economic Development Corp. from $100,000 to $25,000 and spending cuts in the Fire Department for equipment and in the Police Department for vehicles.

On Monday night, several residents who wanted to address the council about the budget changes were each given 3 minutes to speak.

Before the vote on the amended general fund budget, former Police Chief Bill Landry, referring to the $800,000 slated for an I-10 service road study, said he was “asking councilmen that are involved in this to recuse themselves from voting.”

He questioned the propriety of councilmen voting on a study of an area of the city “where a family owns property.”

According to a map from the Assessor’s Office, Irvin’s father, Melvin Irvin Jr., owns, either individually or through a business, several parcels of property along South Commerce Avenue, which is east of the interstate.

Following the meeting, Terance Irvin said the location of a service road along I-10 hasn’t been determined and the $800,000 is for preliminary planning. He indicated he would seek an opinion from the state Board of Ethics as to whether he should recuse himself from voting on the issue.

Ascension Chamber of Commerce Chairman Matthew Pryor also addressed the council, asking it to restore funding to the Ascension Economic Development Corp. and the Police and Fire departments.

“Those chairs you sit on are not thrones,” Pryor said. “This is not the feudal ages.”

Before the vote on the capital outlay budget was taken, Councilman Lacombe discussed the budget amendment to buy four police units, instead of the nine that Police Chief Sherman Jackson had requested.

Lacombe said he wanted to spread out the replacement of the units over several years.

“You have to have faith and trust in me that I know” the required replacement and maintenance schedule, Jackson said.

“If you want to be the chief, you can run for it,” Jackson said.

The amended general fund and capital outlay budgets both passed, with councilmen Lacombe, Irvin and Timothy Vessel voting in favor of the budgets, and councilmen Kenny Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux voting against them.