Jonesville to dissolve police department

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015

JONESVILLE — The Town of Jonesville has taken a tentative step toward dissolving its police department with the goal of having the Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office take over law enforcement in the city limits by mid-summer.

Jonesville Mayor Hiram Evans said the decision to seek dissolution of the police department — which was adopted by the town’s board of trustees last week — has been prompted by financial concerns.

“The town is running in a deficit,” Evans said. “Unlike some towns, Jonesville does not have a sales tax, it has a small property tax, but it operates primarily off utilities. All expenses are going up just about everywhere, and we have to look at how we can save the town and cut. We looked at that as being the best thing we had to do.”

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Town trustee Benny Vault Sr. said the idea of dissolving the police department has been discussed in years past. The town government in Jonesville appoints the police chief.

Evans said the police department is the largest of Jonesville’s town departments, with approximately 18 people working for it, including 12 full-time employees. The police chief and six officers make up the patrol division of the office.

The town is exploring options for law enforcement without a police force, including having the Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office take over the duties, Vault said.

The target date for the change is June 30, the end of the fiscal year, Evans said.

Catahoula Parish Sheriff James Kelly said a lot of discussions and decisions have to be made before anything is finalized, and “as they say, the devil is in the details.”

“Right now, we have about as many questions as we have answers about how it will be done, but if we have to do it we will do it right,” Kelly said. “There are some legal questions about a town the size of Jonesville, that they might be mandated to have a police department.”

If the sheriff’s office does have to take over the duties, Kelly said it would greatly increase the workload for the entire office and the district judge.

“We’d have to add patrolmen, dispatchers and support staff,” he said. “At this point, we’re not sure how much that we will be able to add because we are not sure how much the town would be able to help us out financially.”

Kelly said the average deputy’s salary ranges from $28,000 to $32,000 annually depending on experience, but when one factors in the cost of benefits and equipping deputies — including cars and fuel — the cost of a deputy, “is quite a bit more than his take home pay.”

But even with extra costs involved, Kelly said he would do what he had to do.

“It is incumbent on me regardless, as sheriff it is my job to provide law enforcement in Catahoula Parish,” he said.