After concerns of Webster Parish Police Jurors were aired at Tuesday’s meeting, leaders say they are confident about communication moving forward.
Concerns aired at the November meeting about whether or not jury procedures were being followed, are being laid aside in hopes that reaffirming committee reporting and reinforcing open lines of communication will facilitate jurors’ participation and confidence in action taken by the jury.
According to WWPJ Code of Ordinances, jury committees are to report back to the jury as whole on all matters, except in case of emergencies.
Bonsall said he thought the jury was practicing in accordance with the ordinance.
“Often when the jury meets as a committee before the regular police jury meeting we do have discussions on the outcome of the smaller committee, like the building and grounds committee,” he said. “Most of the discussion in the large committee meeting focuses on roads.”
The regular 9 a.m. committee meeting before the November police jury meeting was not held, due to no road projects to discuss.
“I did ask that the jurors still come and have coffee and visit with one another,” he said. “For many jurors that meeting is the only time they have to visit with everyone. I thought it was an opportunity. The result was not what I was expecting.”
Juror Nick Cox wanted to address concerns of the Courthouse Annex renovation, which building and grounds committee had hoped to advertise for bid this week.
“I felt like not all the jurors were informed about the project,” Cox said. “Plus we had not yet discussed funding.”
Bonsall said the project has been discussed since November 2015.
“When (Regions) bank moved out last year, we began talking about this,” he said. “The committee meetings are open to all jurors, even if they are not on the committee. Nick has been to nearly all the meetings so I was surprised he felt there were communication issues.”
Bonsall had hoped bids could be received and reviewed in the December committee meeting.
“That’s when the financial discussion would have taken place,” he said. “We have the building and maintenance fund for projects like this and have been anticipating it for sometime. The next step is getting real numbers from the bids and seeing how that affects the project.”
WPPJ treasurer and secretary, Ronda Carnahan, said the jury’s Building and Maintenance fund is generated with a tax levied specifically for that purpose.
“Those funds cannot be moved to the general budget to pay for salaries or to added to road funds to help with repairs,” she said. “We must use those funds on the building and maintenance of the courthouse, the annex, the extension office and so on.”
The courthouse is currently having HVAC work and other projects being performed, funded from the Building and Maintenance budget.
Bonsall said he understands each juror is responsible to the constituents of their districts and respects jurors may not always agree.
“But I also have a responsibility to each of the jurors, in addition to my district, as president,” he said. “It’s important to me that we all feel like we can communicate. We might disagree, but the information will still be shared.”
Bonsall and Cox said they both look forward to moving forward with a better appreciation of the jury’s communication.