Gonzales budget saga drags on

Source: Byron Thomas/WAFB
Source: Byron Thomas/WAFB

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - After months of explosive meetings, the Gonzales City Council was just two agenda items away from possibly settling the city's budget needs Monday night.

Those items were introducing a new capital outlay budget and getting a final vote on an amendment to the general fund budget that would award the police department funds to buy new cars. However, as the crowds who now gather at the council meetings have come to expect, the agenda did not go as planned.

The debate centers on funding for the Gonzales Police Department. Mayor Barney  vetoed previous capital outlay budgets which made severe cuts to the department. The capital outlay budget is funding used to purchase and maintain city equipment like police vehicles. Police Chief Sherman Jackson has long said his department needed to purchase nine new units.

Two weeks ago, Councilman Gary Lacombe proposed to amend the already approved general fund budget and award more than $270,000 to the department for the purchase of needed equipment. The council was supposed to give a final vote on that amendment Monday.

During the meeting Councilman Terance Irvin moved to reduce the police capital outlay budget to $64,800. That motion passed with support from Councilmen Lacombe and Timothy Vessel.

"The police department had several months, five months as you heard me mention, to go and purchase the cars they require," said Irvin.

The Chief said Irvin's view is misleading and that the budging problems are much more complicated.

"I don't know a chief of police in the state of Louisiana that would buy nine police cars without a budget being approved," said Jackson.

When the general fund amendment came up, Councilman Kenneth Matassa moved to increase the amount being awarded to the police department by another $114,000 in order to cover the cost of new motorcycles and security cameras. Unexpectedly, Irvin voted in favor of the general fund increase. That motion also passed with support from Councilmen Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux.

The council will make a final decision on both items at their next meeting. However, according to the city clerk's calculations, if no other changes are made the police department could receive slightly more money than it originally requested.

"I'm not sure why we're going through all this once again when it could have been simplified and done two weeks ago," said Arceneaux.

When asked why he voted to decrease funds in one area and increase funds in another, Irvin hinted that the budget controversy was wearing thin on everyone.

"It's time to move forward. Also I think the public is ready for the police department and the council and the administration to move forward," said Irvin.

To further complicate the city's business, Vessel and Lacombe are both facing a recall election on December 6.

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