E. Feliciana Policy Jury ratifies deal with sheriff over jail use

The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury ratified an agreement Tuesday with Sheriff Talmadge Bunch over his use of the parish jail to house prisoners, apparently ending a simmering dispute of several months.

Bunch keeps some state inmates in the jail for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and other state prisoners on work-release status in a separate building.

An earlier cost-sharing agreement ended when Bunch began his fourth term July 1, and the jurors voted Sept. 28 to tell Bunch to remove all state prisoners from the jail by Nov. 9 if he did not sign an intergovernmental agreement with the same terms and conditions.

Under the agreement, Bunch and the jury divided the jail expenses according to the ratio of state and parish inmates being housed in the facility.

Bunch held out for a change that would relieve him of paying a pro-rata share of the insurance on the jail, arguing that the building belongs to the jury and the premium would be the same if no state prisoners were housed in it.

Bunch and jury President Dennis Aucoin reached an agreement during the first week of July that would continue the earlier cost-sharing arrangements but relieve Bunch of the responsibility for paying a portion of the insurance.

The jury balked at ratifying the document, however, insisting that it include a provision that Bunch continue supplying four to six state prisoners for a Police Jury work crew and that it run through the remainder of Bunch’s term.

Although Bunch initially said he would not agree to the terms, Parish Manager Glen Kent said the sheriff recently signed the revised document.

“I think we’ve got it the way we wanted it; well, as far as we could,” Aucoin said Tuesday as the jury ratified the agreement.

Bunch’s budget is heavily dependent on housing state inmates in the parish facility, including those allowed to participate in work-release programs.

Other topics before the jury included:

ZONING AMENDMENT: A public hearing on a proposed zoning amendment ended in a stalemate after Planning and Zoning Commission members argued with Kent for several minutes on the wording of the zoning change.

Commission member James Devillier said the recommended amendment left the commission titled as “Addendum 2” of the zoning ordinance, and the jury staff was not authorized to change its heading to that of a section in the parish code of ordinances.

Kent, who is a lawyer, said an amendment to a parish ordinance must follow the established order of the ordinance book.

The jury tabled the amendment to give the district attorney time to look at the issue.

CONSTABLE APPOINTMENT: Jurors voted 6-2 to name Cliff Morris as the temporary constable of Justice of the Peace District 2. Joel Odom resigned from office in October to accept a state civil service position. Jurors Jason McCray and Ed Brooks supported Edward Matthews Jr. for the post.

Jurors also set an April 6 election for the remainder of Odom’s term.