Avoyelles Police Jury may raise permit fees for oil well sites

Hears presentation from human services district director

If Avoyelles police jurors didn’t have a change of heart at their regular meeting Tuesday, the parish permit for new oil and gas well sites will be significantly higher.

The Police Jury held its committee meeting Aug. 3 to set the agenda for this past Tuesday’s regular meeting.

With three jurors absent, the jury endorsed charging $3,500 for a site that will use “fracking” and $2,000 for sites where that procedure will not be used.

“Fracking” is a shortened term for “hydraulic fracturing,” a process in which pressurized liquid is injected into a well to break up oil-holding formations to release oil and natural gas.

In addition, the parish will require exploration companies to post $100,000 bond for every mile of parish road to be used.

The parish currently charges $750 for “fracking” sites, $500 for “non-fracking” sites and does not require a bond for use of parish roads.

“It’s a lot more money, but less than the neighboring parishes,” Police Jury President Charles Jones said.

Although oil/ and gas companies have recently signed over 600 leases in the parish, there has only been a few new wells approved this year.

VETERANS OFFICE FATE

In other business, the jurors discussed the future of the state Veterans Affairs Office (VAO) in Marksville.

The VAO is temporarily closed due to health concerns with the building in which it had been housed, located behind the Council on Aging Senior Center on Preston Street. The state Department of Veterans Affairs said the local office must relocate.

Jones has spoken with Council on Aging officials to see if the agency has office space to house the veterans services.

The VAO has also asked the parish to increase financial support for the program from $1,150/month to $1,981 for the rest of the year and to $2,418 in the 2018 budget.

The jurors decided to tell the VAO that the cost increase is not in the current budget, but an increase will be discussed in November when the 2018 budget is developed.

CARING CHOICES CENTER

In another matter, Dr. Michael DeCaire, director of the 8-parish Central Louisiana Human Services District, addressed the jurors about the services offered at the state’s Caring Choices Center. The center is adjacent to the Sheriff’s Office/Detention Center complex on Tunica Drive in Marksville.

DeCaire said the state did not renew Pathways’ contract to provide services for substance abuse/addictive disorders, opting to provide those services itself. Pathways closed its Marksville office on Main Street in July.

With the addition of those programs, the center is “now a one-stop shop for those needing services for mental health, addictive disorders and developmental disabilities,” he added.

DeCaire emphasized that even though the CLHSD headquarters is in Pineville and serves eight parishes stretching from the Mississippi River to the Sabine River, it is still very active in Avoyelles Parish.

“We treated 851 people in Avoyelles Parish last year,” DeCaire said, “and 123 of those had no health benefits at all.”

The agency is also active in the Avoyelles Community & Youth Coalition and has participated in several local events in the past few years.

‘ZERO SUICIDE' GRANT
DeCaire said the CLHSD is hoping the state receives a “Zero Suicide” grant because he believes Avoyelles has a good chance of receiving a sizeable portion due to its consistently high suicide rate over the past several years. Dr. L.J. Mayeux, parish coroner, has provided facts and figures to support the parish’s need for the program, he said.

“We would be able to hire two people in this parish to implement the programs funded by the grant,” DeCaire added.

One program the center provides that many are unaware of is “crisis intervention training” for police officers.

“That person who is not responding to the police officer’s orders may not be confrontational,” DeCaire said. “They may be mentally ill. They may not be aware” of the officer's presence or instructions.

Proper training will make the law enforcement officer aware of what to look for and can avoid situations where officers unnecessarily resort to a Taser to subdue the individual or even shoot the person.

“He may need to go to a hospital for (mental health) treatment, not jail,” DeCaire said.

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