(The Daily Advertiser) – The almost ubiquitous sight of Lafayette Police officers on Jefferson Street on the weekends may be a little less so after District 2 Councilman Jay Castille proposed to strike $85,000 from the overtime fund to pay officers patrolling at night.
His proposal would knock down overtime pay for officers working the three-day, three-night downtown detail to $200,000. Castille said that if the protection and crowd control LPD provides is important enough to the restaurants and the Downtown Development Authority, they should to pitch in.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Somebody’s got to stand up. It’s been nine years, and no one else has stepped up to the plate.”
Downtown authority CEO Nathan Norris said he understands Castille’s concerns and that he’ll work to bring everyone who benefits from the detail together and work something out with LCG and the police department.
Lafayette Police Chief Reginald Thomas said he’s going to have to look at cutting down on the number of nights they go out to contain the crowds of revelers. Thomas said he won’t do the detail if there are too few officers working and safety becomes an issue. Thomas suggested there’s going to be a new club opening up soon on Grant Street.
“We can’t cut back on officers while the crowds are getting bigger,” he said. “When that club opens, you could have 800 more people out there. I’d have to add two or four people.”
To date, LCG has paid $168,145 for the downtown detail, according to the budget. The overtime costs for the detail cost the city $500,000 at one point since its inception.
“We don’t deploy this sort of resource anywhere else in the city,” District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said. “Hopefully, those folks downtown are going to look at what they can do.”
District 3 Councilman Pat Lewis, whose district includes most of downtown Lafayette, said he thinks it may be too drastic of a cut with the possible moratorium lift and other factors.
“I think we need to look at cutting a little less,” he said. “I think we need to allow more time to think about this.”
Thomas also asked the Lafayette City-Parish Council during the department’s yearly budget hearing to ramp up his police force by adding five police officers. The council entered an agreement that if LPD can keep employment at 100 percent, then they’ll fund more positions.
“We owe it to those officers to get them up to full manpower,” Boudreaux said.
Lafayette Fire Department Chief Robert Benoit also presented his department’s budget Thursday.
“Going forward, this year’s budget had its challenges, but we have a healthy budget. We’ll be OK with this budget going into the next fiscal year,” he said.
Out of concern for issues with fire protection outside of the city, Councilman Jared Bellard moved to zero out the international trade budget and split the $95,000 in it among the six volunteer fire departments in the unincorporated areas, giving each one about $13,000.
“In these times that we have, fire protection is more important,” Bellard said. “No one is ever going to convince me that international trade is going to be more important for the unincorporated than for fire protection. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; it’s just that my people would be better served by more fire protection.”
Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux warned some of the positions in the international trade office may be civil service protected.
“It may not be allowed,” he said.