Gonzales council lets mayor’s budget veto stand

The city of Gonzales will be operating at 50 percent of last year’s budget for the time being, with no attempt made at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to override the mayor’s recent veto of the major parts of the 2014-15 budget.

None of the three councilmen who voted for the controversial amendments to the budget that Mayor Barney Arceneaux vetoed on May 21 offered a motion Tuesday night to override Arceneaux’s veto.

It would have taken four votes of the five-member council to override the veto.

With the veto remaining in place, the city will operate on 50 percent of last year’s budget until new general fund and capital outlay budgets are approved. The new fiscal year begins June 1.

Arceneaux has said the city can operate on the reduced budget for about five months before major cuts would have to be made, unless new budgets are adopted.

When Arceneaux vetoed the budgets last week, he cited his objection to cuts in funding for the police and fire departments and the Ascension Economic Development Corp., for the purpose of allocating the funds instead for an $800,000 study of a new service road along Interstate 10.

Those cuts were supported by councilman Gary Lacombe, Terance Irvin and Timothy Vessel.

“I cannot agree to allocate $800,000 to a project surrounded by so many unanswered questions,” Arceneaux said on May 21, at the news conference where he announced the veto.

The study of a service road surfaced again at Tuesday night’s meeting, when the council was due to make its final decision on contracting with CPEX, the nonprofit Center for Planning Excellence, to develop a new master growth plan for the city.

Lacombe, who had made the initial proposal for the service road study of the area along I-10 between La. 30 and La. 44, asked CPEX representative Camille Manning-Broome if the organization could make a study of that area of the city a priority.

“This is a land-use document, not a transportation study,” said Councilman Kenny Matassa, who made a motion to go with the CPEX contract as it stood.

The motion, seconded by Councilman Kirk Boudreaux, passed without opposition.

The City Council also approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Ascension Parish School Board to use East Ascension High School as a site for evacuation of students from the four middle and primary schools in the city limits, in the case of an emergency. In the event of an emergency situation at East Ascension High, the city would provide the Gonzales Civic Center as a site for evacuation.

Detective Sgt. Steven Nethken, with the Gonzales City Police, presented the intergovernmental agreement at the council and said the Police Department was preparing a crisis response for public and private schools.

The City Council also voted to lower fees at the Jambalaya Park swimming pool from $7 per person to $5 per person.

The rate would apply to those in all parties, including groups of 25 or more from daycare centers, which were previously charged $2 per person.