East Feliciana Police Jury backs agencies in disputes

The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury gave support Monday to a subordinate agency in a dispute with a land surveyor and another in a conflict with the sheriff.

The Police Jury voted to back the Planning and Zoning Commission’s action to deny approval of two subdivision requests based on plats by surveyor Charles St. Romain, of Jarreau, for unspecified problems with the plats St. Romain submitted for his clients.

A move to have the jury file a complaint against St. Romain to the state board that regulates surveyors failed on a 3-5 vote.

Jurors Larry Beauchamp, Karl Chaney and Chris Hall voted to file a complaint, while Dwight Hill, Jason McCray, Keith Miller, Ed Brooks and Louis Kent voted against the motion.

The commission turned down the plats in September, specifying several items it said the plats lacked, but Chairman Mike Salmon said the panel would not tell St. Romain what his plats lacked when he resubmitted them.

“How can I fix them if I don’t know what’s wrong?” St. Romain argued, but Salmon and several jurors said surveyors are responsible for following a checklist of items required by the parish subdivision ordinance.

The commission filed its own complaint with the state board against St. Romain, but Salmon and St. Romain differed on whether the board’s response rose to the level of a “reprimand.”

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

911 CALLS: Ben Chasteen, director of the parish’s Emergency Communications Board, told jurors the board is moving ahead with plans to take over 911 call-taking responsibility from the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 20.

Sheriff Talmadge Bunch last month told the board it would either have to increase the amount it pays for 911 call-taking or make other arrangements by Nov. 19.

Chasteen said Bunch was trying to use “scare tactics” to get more money and said the sheriff has two operators on duty when it needs only one to answer emergency calls.

Homeland Security Director Bud Weigand, who said he was speaking Monday night for Bunch, said “lies have been told” in the dispute and Bunch has not sought extra compensation for providing call-takers for years.

The cost of providing the service has risen, however, Weigand and Parish Jail Warden Ray Newman said.

“We can’t eat it anymore,” Newman said.

When Newman continued to speak on the sheriff’s behalf, communications board member Mark Chelette said, “This is null and void. I don’t know why they keep bringing it up.”

The meeting ended abruptly when jurors hurriedly voted to adjourn and jury President Dennis Aucoin slammed his gavel on the table.