ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Home Rule Charter Commission on Monday adopted the final draft of its proposed new plan of parish government and voted to send it on to the Police Jury, which by state law has to present the plan to parish voters in an election.
The commission has been working to develop a home-rule charter to do away with the police jury system of government since it was formed in January 2011.
Glen Thomas, former St. Francisville Chamber of Commerce president, thanked commissioners for their service and voiced his hope that a committee will be formed to educate potential voters about the document.
“Education in this parish is going to be tough,” said Thomas, whose organization called for the charter commission in 2010.
Thomas said he personally does not like several parts of the document, but it has to be taken “in the context of the big picture.”
“There are probably parts of it that all 11 of us don’t like,” said member Walter Oliveaux, adding that it is “a consensus document.”
Jurors have discussed submitting the proposal to the voters at the Nov. 6 presidential election.
If approved by the voters, the parish would be governed by a five-member council, with four council members elected from new single-member districts and one member elected in parishwide, at-large balloting.
Thomas also said the biggest hurdle in gaining voter approval will be convincing voters to accept decreasing the parish governing body from seven jurors to five council members and convincing the U.S. Department of Justice to accept the change.
Commission Chairman Jack Hanemann countered that the advice the commission has received indicates that getting over the Justice Department hurdle “may not be as difficult as you think.”
A parish president would be the chief executive officer, responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the parish government and carrying out the council’s policy decisions.
If voters approve the plan, an election would be held at least 90 days later to fill the office of parish president, and the seven police jurors would become parish council members until their terms expire at the end of 2015.
The succeeding councilmen would be elected in the fall 2015 elections.
Other highlights of the proposal include:
- Setting council members’ pay at $800 per month without retirement or other benefits. No reimbursement would be allowed for travel in the parish. The commission told resident Becky Hilliard the only way to increase the salaries would be through a voter-approved charter amendment.
- Limiting council members and the parish president to two full terms in office.
- Setting the parish president’s salary as the average of the salaries of the clerk of court, sheriff and assessor.
- Giving the parish president the power to veto line items in the council’s budgets.
- Limiting the days on which tax elections could be held.
- Creating finance, public works and planning and zoning departments.