Gonzales road study dead, but amendments may keep budget controversy alive

The controversial attempt by three of the city’s five councilmen to fund an $800,000 Interstate 10 service road study is dead.

But enough amendments were tacked on to the city’s budget Monday night to again set up a potential battle between the three councilmen and the mayor.

On Monday, at the mayor’s second attempt to get a budget for the city of Gonzales, Councilman Gary Lacombe said, when pointedly asked, that he would not be proposing a road study amendment again.

The road study issue led to a mayoral veto of the budget in May.

“Are you putting the $800,000 road study in the budget?” Councilman Kenny Matassa asked.

Lacombe said no.

“Are you putting it in, in any other form or fashion?” Mayor Barney Arceneaux asked.

“You said you didn’t want it; let’s move forward,” Lacombe said.

Lacombe and Councilman Terance Irvin did, however, propose amendments to once again cut funding to the Police Department and the Ascension Economic Development Corp.

The cuts proposed, however, were not as severe as the ones the two councilmen had originally sought to find funds for the access road study.

Lacombe and Irvin characterized their amendments as compromises, although Police Chief Sherman Jackson and Mike Eades, the head of the nonprofit economic development corporation, said the proposed cuts are not in the best interest of the community.

Lacombe offered an amendment to cut spending to the Police Department by approximately $110,000, instead of the $150,000 he had proposed in previous months.

Lacombe’s amendment would mean $327,555 for the Police Department rather than the $437,261 originally budgeted.

He got the new reduced figure, he said, from the average of the last five years of Police Department funding.

“I can appreciate that formula,” Chief Jackson said, “but it doesn’t work that way in law enforcement.”

Lacombe, who had earlier wanted to cut funding specifically for new police cars, said Monday that the police chief could spend his new, reduced funding any way he wants to.

Councilmen Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux said they have issues with not knowing what the Police Department’s specific expenses would be.

Irvin proposed an amendment to cap the city’s share of the budget of the Ascension Economic Development Corp. at $50,000.

In previous years, the city has provided $100,000 to the organization.

Irvin in April had proposed cutting funding to the AEDC from $100,000 to $25,000.

Arceneaux, after vetoing the first amended general fund and capital outlay budgets, proposed his own compromise, in a new budget in June, that the city pay $75,000 for AEDC’s operations.

Irvin’s amendment knocks $25,000 off that proposal.

Eades, when invited to address the council on Monday, said the city’s portion of funding for the AEDC helps provide for salaries, health care insurance and building rental for its staff of three.

Its other funding, from Ascension Parish government, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Industrial Development Board of Ascension Parish, allows AEDC to support local business and bring new business to the parish and its towns, Eades said.

“If you reduce that pot, it will be very difficult for us to be proactive,” he told the City Council.

“The model we use (for funding) is the common model” in the U.S. for economic development organizations, Eades said.

The amendments made by Lacombe and Irvin were approved by the two men and Councilman Timothy Vessel.

Councilmen Matassa and Boudreaux voted against the amendments.

The City Council will vote on the amended budgets at its next meeting on July 28.