The Ouachita Parish Police Jury agreed earlier this week to call a special election on April 30 to ask voters to consider approving a 9.2-mill property tax that would keep the parish prison open.
Some 1,000 inmates are held at Ouachita Correctional Center on U.S. Hwy 165 South. The property tax represents the main source of revenues for keeping the prison open.
The Police Jury acted on the matter during its regular meeting on Monday. Police jurors encouraged one another to promote the millage in the hopes of preventing a second failure at the polls in five months. Last November, nearly 6,000 voters rejected a proposition renewing the property tax for OCC. Nearly 4,700 voters supported the property tax proposition.
“I don’t think people understood it was a renewal,” said Police Jury Vice President Jack Clampit. “In order for economic development in Ouachita Parish to move forward, we need to have a jail. A parish jail signals a stable environment when other people look at our community.”
Police Jury President Shane Smiley noted the property tax proposition represented a renewal of an existing tax.
“I think we have a responsibility to make sure the voters know what they are voting on,” Smiley said. “This is a continuation or renewal of an existing millage. It is not a new millage.”
The text of the proposition is reprinted below:
“Shall the Ouachita Parish Police Jury, as governing authority of the Parish of Ouachita, State of Louisiana (the ‘Parish’), be authorized to levy a special tax of nine and two-tenths (9.2) mills on all property subject to taxation in the Parish of Ouachita (an estimated $10,842,214.18 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) for a period of five (5) years, beginning with the year 2022 and ending with the year 2026, with the proceeds of said special tax to be used first for the purpose of satisfying the statutory obligations of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury with respect to the parish jail (‘Ouachita Correctional Center’) and the maintenance of the prisoners incarcerated therein, and the balance to be applied to expenses incurred by the Sheriff of Ouachita Parish in connection with the operation of the Ouachita Correctional Center, this being a continuation of a special tax that expired in 2021?”
On another front, the Police Jury adopted an ordinance meant to curb the use of dumpsters at single-family dwellings in southeastern Ouachita Parish and promote the use of garbage cans holding 120 gallons of waste or less.
The amended ordinance would prohibit companies providing garbage pick-up services in Districts D and F furnishing customers with containers larger than 120 gallons.
Districts D and F are part of the Garbage District No. 1 in which the ordinance takes effect.
“We trying to clean up the whole parish,” said Police Juror Lonnie Hudson. “I think this is a good step toward beautifying our neighborhoods with residential trash cans instead of commercial trash cans.”
Assistant District Attorney Jay Mitchell, who serves as the Police Jury’s legal counsel, explained it had become customary for small dumpsters to be placed on the edge of the road, posing a hazard to passing motorists.
“You had a dumpster operation in the road,” Mitchell said.
In other business, the Police Jury re-elected Smiley as the jury’s president for 2022.
“I appreciate the confidence of this body to continue to serve as president,” Smiley said.
Police jurors were at odds about who would serve as vice president this year, and their indecision meant Clampit will continue to serve in the position.
When nominations for vice president opened, Police Juror Larry Bratton nominated Clampit for the role. Meanwhile, Police Juror Scotty Robinson nominated Hudson for vice president.
The votes for Clampit and Hudson as vice president each failed on a 3-3 vote with Clampit, Bratton and Smiley voting in favor of Clampit and against Hudson. Robinson, Hudson, and Police Juror Michael Thompson Sr. voted against Clampit and in favor of Hudson.
“As both nominees have failed, the incumbent will continue to serve in that office until such time as a successor is chosen by a majority,” Mitchell said.