Police Jury hears more on possible change to parish council form of government


   Discussion on a possible change in the form of parish government will continue, but those attending the Avoyelles Police Jury’s Feb. 9 meeting were told in no uncertain terms that the end result will be a nine-district governing board.
    Whether that board is called a Police Jury or a Parish Council after the talking is over still remains to be decided. The Police Jury heard from a few interested individuals during the meeting but took no definite action concerning the issue.
    Glen Goudeau, who is spearheading the pro-change effort, said he and others “want a system of government that is more conducive to cost savings and having services performed that are needed.”
    He said he understands that there are “different ideas about what needs to be done” even among those calling for a Home Rule Charter to change parish government from a police jury to a parish council system.
   “I am just asking that you follow-up, that you learn more about what the options are,” Goudeau continued. “We need to look at the advantages and disadvantages and which system would be best suited to Avoyelles Parish.”
   Goudeau said he appreciated Police Jury President Charles Jones’ offer to hold a community meeting at the AgCenter in Mansura in the near future so a number of people could hear special speakers explain the parish council and Home Rule Charter process.
   “We just want to ensure that the process is ongoing and that information is made available to the public so it can make up its mind on what it wants to do,” Goudeau said.
   He said he hopes the effort results in a system of government that will enable Avoyelles “to keep up with the progress going on around us in other areas.”
Meeting next month
   Jones said the Police Jury is trying to schedule a community meeting, with special speakers on the issue, for sometime in March. No date has been set yet.
   Goudeau said he would hope the community meeting would “not be a stadium atmosphere.”
   District Attorney Charles Riddle said that when the meeting is held, he wants it understood that anybody and everybody is invited and encouraged to attend.
    “The public has a lot of questions,” Riddle said. “They are not sure what the options are.”
   Riddle said he would strongly recommend that any new governing board retain nine districts, to avoid a possible problem with the federal court over the reducing of minority representation on the parish board.
   Allen Holmes, president of the local NAACP and the plaintiff in the desegregation suit against the Avoyelles School Board, said the notion of a parish council was raised and knocked down in 1995. He said the idea needs to be abandoned again.
  Holmes said the immediate result of changing the form of government would be an increase in the cost of administration. He cited salaries of $125,000 to $150,000 for parish presidents under the parish council form of government.
   The parish president is the chief administrator and the executive branch of the parish government under the parish council form. The president can either be elected at-large by the voters or hired by the elected parish council members, depending on the wording of the home rule charter approved by the voters.
Bigger, not better
  Holmes said changing to a parish council would only make parish government bigger without necessarily improving efficiency or services.
   “We have roads with potholes so large you can lose a Volkswagen in them,” Holmes said. “We have schools that are under-performing. The reason for both is the fact that we don’t pay taxes.  Our taxes are way too low.”
   Holmes said that if the public wants improvements in government services, it has to begin by raising taxes to a level comparable with other parishes in the state.
  “Don’t make government bigger, make it smarter,” Holmes said. “Instead of adding $150,000 to pay an administrator, take that $150,000 and blacktop a road in Hickory Hill. That makes more sense.”