St. James weighs pay raises

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, May 27, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

VACHERIE — A special committee has been formed to review a salary-increase request by St. James Parish constables and justices of the peace.

St. James Council members Jason Amato, James Brazon and chairman Charles Ketchens agreed last week to form the committee with goals to review the requests and present a recommendation to the full council.

Amato said the justices and constables came before the council requesting a pay raise a few weeks ago and were asked to gather additional information to justify the pay raise.

“We will form this committee now and hopefully (the justices of the peace and constables) will forward the information to us and we’ll review it,” Amato said. “I also want explore what other options there are for funding. The parish council set a salary for the justices of the peace and constables. The state also provides supplemental (pay) to their salary. “

Amato said he knows St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. is in favor of the raise.

“I want to see how the sheriff’s office can also provide supplemental (pay) to the justices of the peace and constable,” Amato said. “It’s not a given that we will give them (a pay raise). We want to evaluate it. We want to make sure we are fair. We do appreciate the work they do, but understand we have to set boundaries too.”

The process would be open ended regarding completion, and Amato said if anything passed, it probably would not take effect until 2015, following local elections this fall for justices of the peace and constables.

In other business, St. James Parish Council members reduced the sale price for the former St. James Parish Youth Detention Center from $2.5 million to $1.87 million — 75 percent of its appraised value.

Council members agreed upon the reduction after no one expressed interest in purchasing the building at the appraised value.

“Of course, (council members) don’t want to give that land away and certainly the administration doesn’t want to either,” St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel said, adding he didn’t anticipate the price dropping further.

The center closed last summer because of increased costs to run the facility.

St. James Parish uses a parishwide 1-mill tax to pay for local youth offenders to be housed in a detention center in Assumption Parish.

Roussel and Amato said alternative uses discussed for the facility include affordable housing, work-release program, minimum-security jail or dormitory housing for industrial manpower.

The land surrounding the facility is designated as industrial and any plans for the location differing from that designation would necessitate a variance vote.