Port Allen Police Chief Ken Bates, who lost re-election Nov. 7 to 15-year veteran of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Esdron Brown, informed the Port Allen City Council at the Nov. 14 council meeting of his desire to continue working for the Port Allen Police Department as of Jan. 1, 2013, when the newly elected police chief takes office.
Port Allen Mayor Roger Bergeron said over the phone Monday that the 2012-2013 budget the city council approved on June 13 took into consideration Bates’ possible re-election loss.
Bergeron said the city set aside 6 months’ worth of pay, from Jan. 1 to June 30, for Bates to continue in his former position of Sergeant. However, he said the decision to grant Bates’ request is ultimately up to Brown.
Bates said at the meeting when he made his request that he had not yet spoken to Brown.
Brown said he should have, as the current administration is not who will ultimately decide Bates’ future with the police department.
Brown said he and Bates have since spoken, but that he has not made a decision regarding Bates’ request.
Bates told the council he has over 24 years’ experience with the Port Allen Police Department.
He said previous elected chiefs have continued working for the police department in other capacities and that by announcing his request on Nov. 14 he was giving the mayor and the council time to “check into all the legalities of it.”
Brown, over the phone Monday, stressed how important it is for elected officials to serve the public. “It’s not about Chief Bates, whether he can retire or not,” he said. “It’s about the public.”
Brown said the money budgeted for Bates’ continuance with the department could have been used for other purposes, such as equipment for officers. Brown said, additionally, some officers have not seen a pay raise in years.
As of Jan. 1, the Port Allen City Council will consist of re-elected council members R.J. Loupe and Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and newly elected council members Garry L. Hubble and Brandon Brown. Who will be mayor is still undetermined, as Bergeron and fellow candidate Deedy Slaughter are set to compete in a Dec. 8 run-off election.
Brown said the police chief, the mayor and the city council are going to have to work together.
Once in office, he said he plans to restructure the department in such a way as to restore two components he believes are missing: the accountability of officers and the trust of the people.
He said he believes much of the crime in the community is drug-related; therefore, one of his major initiatives will be a strict drug-enforcement policy.
Bates said at the meeting he would like to be reinstated as a Sergeant. He added, “I have no idea what [Brown’s] plans for me might be, but of course if he has something better in mind for me than a Sergeant I surely wouldn’t turn that down.”
In other news, the city council voted unanimously to hire one new police officer, current Ball, La. police officer Harry Anthony Robertson III.
Robertson has a prospective start date of Dec. 5 at employment grade 112, step A, which is about $34,000 a year, Bates said.
With an Oct. 10 new hire, Bates said there were two vacancies remaining in the department. With Robertson’s hire on Nov. 14, Bates again said there were two vacancies.
After the meeting, Bergeron attributed this to a recent resignation.
The Port Allen City Council also approved $22,500 in budget amendments at the Nov. 14 meeting. Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain said $4,500 will go to post-employee benefits, as required for the current audit, and $18,000 will cover an 80-cent per month per customer increase under the city’s garbage contract with Progressive Waste Solutions.
The $22,500 in amendments will come from an anticipated general fund surplus of $72,000, McCain said, not from additional sales tax revenue.
“So it’s not recognizing any additional revenue or pulling money from anywhere other than the surplus that we had anticipated,” McCain said.
With the 80-cent increase imposed by Progressive Waste Solutions, Bergeron said the city will now lose $79,000 a year over the remaining four years of the garbage contract. He said Monday the council has decided to wait until after the Dec. 8 run-off election to resolve the issue.
The city has also recovered $37,000 in overpayments on natural gas purchases, Bergeron said.
He said the overpayments occurred from April 2010 to April 2012, under previous Chief Administrative Officer Barry Brewer, and were the result of an industrial rate mistakenly being plugged into a residential meter. The recovered overpayments will go back into the water and gas fund, which is separate from the general fund, Bergeron said.