Police Jury nixes proceeds for parks

The West Feliciana Police Jury turned down a second attempt Tuesday to dedicate money derived from the sale of parish property to recreation and parks improvements.

The jury voted 4-3 last month not to dedicate the estimated $770,000 expected from the sale of jury property on Burnett Road, despite pleas from some jurors and members of the public to commit it to park improvements.

The parish hospital district wants to build a new hospital on the property, which now has three practice fields for youth softball and baseball teams.

Jurors Lea Williams, Melvin Young, John Kean and Otis Wilson voted last month to put the money into the jury’s reserve account without earmarking it for parks and recreation. Jurors Mel Percy, Heather Howle and Ricky Lambert wanted it dedicated to recreation.

Percy brought the matter up again Tuesday, with support from three members of the public who questioned whether the money would be used for other purposes.

“That money belongs to our children,” audience member Lacy Little said.

“This may be premature. The money is not here yet, and we’ve already put it into reserves,” Williams said.

Kean said the jury also has other possible expenses looming, including perhaps more than $1 million for post-Hurricane Gustav cleanup expenses if a dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency is not settled to the jury’s satisfaction. The jury also has to pay for implementing the parish’s home rule charter, Kean said.

“These are real issues,” he said.

Only Howle, Lambert and Percy voted to dedicate the funds to recreation, while Wilson, Williams, Kean and Young’s votes killed the motion.

Other topics before the jury included:

JURY OFFICERS: Jurors voted unanimously to re-elect Lambert as the jury’s president, but a 6-1 vote replaced Wilson with Howle in the vice president’s post. Kean voted against naming Howle to the post after nominating Wilson for another term.

CHARTER WORK: Jurors put off making a decision on accepting a contract with demographer Cedric Floyd after Percy raised questions about Floyd’s proposed contract to draw four single-member districts as required by the home-rule charter that voters approved.

Charter Commission Chairman Jack Hanemann noted that Floyd offered last month to handle the entire charter submission, including legal work, for U.S. Department of Justice clearance for $28,000, but the contract before the jury now calls for the jury to pay him $28,000 for drawing the districts.

Percy said he is not questioning Floyd’s credentials, but he said he has other questions about the proposed contract.