Calcasieu Police Jurors disagree on buying Christmas lights

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -It's a tough economy-- with people losing their jobs and having trouble making ends meet. So, should Calcasieu Police Jurors spend $130,000 on Christmas lights for Prien Lake Park. There are two schools of thought when it comes to spending big bucks on Christmas lights in a bad economy. To some police jurors it seems wrong when people are struggling and suffering with hard times. Said Police juror Dennis Scott, "I'm not against them. I'm just saying this year I'm against them."

Police Juror Francis Andrepont agrees, "We spent an hour plus minutes discussing a $30,000 issue earlier tonight. We spent about five minutes whether we're going to spend $130,000 tonight. Talk about inconsistent. That's what we've been here."

Yet, others think maybe it's times like these when things like Christmas lights will be most important.  Juror Sandy Treme told her colleagues, "I really believe that in times like these we need to light the lights. When Katrina hit New Orleans, I mean they got City Park back going and they had lights back up in City Park. $130,000 that's not very much to make people happy."

The proposed $130-thousand expense for Christmas lights at Prien Lake Park would be a one time cost according to administrators. Assistant Administrator Bryan Beam told jurors the bid came in less than what officials had budgeted for it.

Ultimately there was a tie vote-- six for, six against. President Hal McMillin broke the tie. Said McMillin, "One hundred percent yes! I am not bah hum bugging Christmas. I don't care what you all. I was going to vote whether it was tied or not. Yes! mine is yes, thank you."

Police Juror Chris Landry joked, "So, I won't need to make my next motion if it would've failed, which would've been to sell the park to the city of Lake Charles. Perhaps they would've went ahead and put the lights out there."

So, it looks like Christmas lights will glow this year at Prien Lake Park.

Lights that won't be glowing anytime soon are those up on top of the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge. Some jurors get complaints from drivers scared to cross the bridge at night and they want lights up there. Back in 2007 jurors agreed to pay up to a third of the cost with the City of Lake Charles and Westlake pitching in too.

Then their share was estimated at about $50,000. But tonight they found out the estimate for lights is nearly a half million dollars. So the issue will be put on hold while the City of Lake Charles pursues other funding sources.

There was good news at the meeting for those struggling with the high cost of prescription drugs. Jurors agreed to approve a prescription drug discount card program for citizens of Calcasieu Parish.

They watched a video on it. It's for everybody regardless of age or income level. The jury will enter into an agreement with NACO-- the National Association of Counties and Caremark PCS Health. Randy Vincent with the Office of Community Services says it will help the uninsured and under insured. Getting the project here was spearheaded by Juror Claude Syas.  "If your insurance drugs are cheaper than the card then you're blessed, you use your insurance. But if it's not, you got a card and all you have to do is be is a resident of Calcasieu Parish. It'll have our police jury emblem on there and just be a resident of Calcasieu Parish and you qualify."

As soon as they iron out all the details parish officials will make an announcement so people know how it works and where to get their cards.