Public Property and Buildings Committee
Despite the presence of a dozen or more Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Deputies – many in uniform and heavily armed – the Public Property and Buildings Committee of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) failed on two tie votes to advance Sheriff Mike Stone’s plan to build a $5 million public safety complex on the LPPJ’s Road Camp Road property.
It was seconded by Bobby Bennett (Dist 3), who had heretofore been one of the more vocal critics of the entire process. Bennett has publicly said that his constituents were concerned that such a valuable piece of taxpayer-owned property would be given up with little in exchange.
For consideration of the land, the sheriff would agree to pay upkeep and utilities on the 28 thousand ft/sq. facility for the 50 year term of the agreement.
Voting yes were Wyatt, Wilson, and committee chair Hazel Hunter (Dist 2).
Voting no were Hammond, Bennett and Skip Russell (Dist 8).
The vote on the original motion was the opposite, with Hammond, Bennett and Russell voting yes, and Wyatt, Wilson, and Hunter voting no.
Stone, during his plea for the deal said that no local tax money would be used for construction, and that only federal grant money and state capital outlay would be spent.
Said Stone, “The complex would be with no local tax dollars whatsoever. (It’s) money we’ve already received.”
During discussion, Bennett noted that the land was worth $1 million or more and that was a lot of value to just “hand over.”
Russell brought up the issue of the huge cost overruns at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center, and the sheriff’s promises to help defray some of those costs.
Said Russell, “He (Stone) has assured me that the cost overrun for the detention center’s going to be covered through the funds for the sheriff’s office, and for that reason, I’m certainly going to support this public safety complex.”
Both wound up voting for the lease as proposed by Stone.
The tie votes mean that both proposals failed and therefore the committee essentially took no action on the cooperative endeavor agreement. At tonight’s meeting of the full jury, that body can either accept or reject committee reports, but since the Public Property and Buildings Committee has nothing to report, there is nothing to “accept” or “reject.”
Likely, there will be an effort to revive the issue at tonight’s meeting, but unless the agenda is amended, that cannot be done legally.
Amending the agenda takes a unanimous vote of the body.
There was a bit of frank discussion at this committee meeting over the re-appointment of two commissioners – Ray Robinson and Mike Fulton – to the Lincoln Parish Fire District No. 1.
After Robinson was nominated by Theresa Wyatt, and Fulton was nominated by Bobby Bennett, committee members Ronny Walker (Dist 12) and Walter Pullen (Dist 6) sharply questioned the two about the district’s declining fund balance and increasing expenditures.
Asked Walker of Robinson, “I have one concern, and that’s the deficit spending that we’re seeing in the fire district. I just want to kinda get your feelings on how to address it.”
Robinson replied that the fire chief intended to form a committee to look at the spending for the last three years, and suggest solutions.
Pullen asked if Robinson had voted against any of the budgets in the seven years that he had been on the commission. Robinson said he couldn’t precisely recall, but that he probably voted for them.
Pullen said he feared that if the present course continued, then the district would go broke.
Fulton was also questioned by the two, with similar questions and answers.
When the vote came, Pullen voted no on Robinson and abstained on Fulton.