Officials say courthouse & jail tax inadequate

July 5, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt

Many things the Calcasieu Police Jury pays for are required by the state constitution and various laws, some of which are not especially appealing to jurors or their constituents-- such as the feeding and medical care of jail inmates.  It's an expense that continues to grow. Parish officials want taxpayers to know, the property tax that funds courthouse and jail maintenance does not meet the needs. That's why Calcasieu Parish Administrator Mark McMurry says they're only asking to continue the tax for three years-- during which time they expect to pitch a tax proposal to replace it. "We felt it would be disingenuous to go to the public for ten years at 3.46 mills when we know that is not enough to take care of your constitutional responsibilities today."

McMurry says areas of need include more space for the DA's office and juvenile and family court especially. "It's a safety concern. People going into that court are not typically very happy with each other. They're either fighting over custody of a child or it's a divorce or whatever and there's just a small waiting room there. It's just a bad situation."

And he says the sheriff is talking about adding more space at the jail and using it for single cells. "Right now if there's a particularly bad prisoner or someone that has some mental problems he's got to put that person in a single cell that now has three beds so he loses two beds of bed space for criminals that could be housed there."

McMurry says the tax brings in about $1.5 million less than needed right now, at current facility levels. This is money that must be made up from other areas of the budget.  If facilities were expanded to provide more courthouse and jail space, maintenance costs would be expected to increase too.

Also tonight, Jurors approved staff recommendations passed on from the Litter Abatement and Solid Waste Committee as follows:

In situations where the Police Jury, through its President, has approved an official declaration of emergency related to a local disaster event, the Police Jury would commit, with conditions, to removing debris from unincorporated area residential units affected by the event.  Decisions on local declarations of emergency are made based on the anticipated need for resources outside the parish, the initial assessment of physical damage to public and private structures, and the extent of displacement of persons from their homes.


*The amount of debris caused by the event must be significantly in excess of what would be generated by normal weather events that occur throughout the year.

*The debris to be removed must be related to the emergency event and classified as household items/material damaged from within the primary residence (e.g. soiled carpeting and sheetrock), and/or excessive vegetative debris that could be considered a health or safety hazard.  The terim "excessive" as used in this paragraph should be construed to mean any amount that could reasonably be determined to be beyond a homeowner's ability to bring such debris into compliance with the Parish's solid waste management plan.  Additionally, all eligible debris must be placed in the public right-of-way in front of the residence.

*The debris to be removed must meet requirements for what is eligible to dispose of at a construction debris landfill and vegetative debris shall be limited to the capacity of the equipment and vehicles utilized by Public Works.  Debris not suitable for construction landfill disposal (e.g. hazardous material) will not be removed.

*Applicable debris would be removed for a finite period of time, in accordance with the extent of the impact from the event.

*Areas that have experienced repetitive flood events (e.g. riverside structures) may be excluded from eligibility.