The Lafayette Parish Council will go ahead with a plan to acquire land on Willow Street for a new parish jail.

The council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to begin the process of acquiring land adjacent to the Sheriff’s Safety Complex to build that new jail. District 5 councilman Abraham Rubin was absent.

While the sponsor of that measure, District 2 councilman Kevin Naquin, says it’s the most practical plan for the parish. Naquin says the land’s proximity to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Public Safety Complex and major thoroughfares make the Willow Street site the right place to build a new jail.

"It was not a Northside versus Southside," Naquin said. "It wasn’t because (we wanted) to put it on a bad section of town. That had no factor whatsoever in looking at this property. It was based on the fact that it made sense all the way around."

Residents who live near the proposed jail site disagree.

Jonathan Washington says the new jail would bring undesirable elements to his neighborhood.

“There are a couple that come to mind," Washington said. "Specifically, the types of businesses it’s going to bring to the area, like bail bondsman and other businesses that supplement incarceration, as well as the individuals that are released and have nowhere else to go. Like vagrancy, mental health issues, drug abuse, things that they don’t have a way to get out into the community.”

Courtesy: Google
Courtesy: Google

Washington, who is a former corrections officer with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, says he’s worried what kind of impact the jail would have on his son and other youths who live in the area.

“Choosing to build a jail over a sports complex or something more enriching for the environment for youth and him that will be growing up, it doesn't leave him really anything in this area to grow up with or anything in this area to defend," Washington said.

Nurika Ross lives about two miles from the proposed jail site. She’s worried the jail will impact her property value.

“Studies after studies show that building a jail in a residential area will definitely depreciate the value," Ross said. "Whoever thought, hmmm, I would love to live next to a jail? No one ever thought I want to buy a house next to a jail. No one ever thinks of that!”

Like Washington, Ross suggests building a sports complex or a museum along the Willow Street corridor instead of a jail. She also has other ideas for how the parish could escape its jail dilemma.

“If they want to save taxpayers’ money, it would be beneficial to fund community-based services that address mental health, rehabilitation, and homelessness," Ross said. "That’s how you reduce recidivism rates, which saves taxpayer dollars—not by building another jail.”

Naquin says Tuesday’s vote doesn’t mean the jail will be built on the Willow Street property. In fact, he says it could take five to 10 years before a new jail is built anywhere in the parish.

Opponents to the Willow Street plan don’t buy that claim.

“Haha! Bullcrap!" Ross exclaimed. "If not, they’re going to privatize it.”

“Knowing the condition of the jail downtown, they’re going have to build something, and they’re going to have to do it soon," Washington said. "I think the only obstacle they’re going to run into is finding the money to do it.”

Naquin defended his statements.

“I said that because it’s the truth," Naquin said. "It’s not something that we have the design right now. We don’t know what it looks like. We don’t know what the cost is. We haven’t even sat down with the sheriff to say, ‘Hey! What is your vision of what it looks like?’ The first conversation before we could go down that road, we have to find land. So that’s where it’s at.”

Our full 10- minute interview with Naquin is featured below.

In other council business, the deconsolidation effort on the city side continues.

The Lafayette City Council voted 4-to-1 to convene a city-parish charter commission. The Lafayette Parish Council would have to approve the same resolution for that charter commission to be convened.

Meanwhile, the parish council announced the members of its City-Parish Alignment Commission. The committee members are as follows:

  • District 1 parish councilman Bryan Tabor
  • District 2 parish councilman Kevin Naquin
  • District 4 city councilwoman Nanette Cook
  • Former Scott mayor and former Lafayette city-parish councilman Purvis Morrison
  • Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee chairman Timothy Breaux
  • Schilling Distributing vice president Charles Schilling, II
  • Certified public accountant Will Thiele
  • Advertising executive Paul Eason
  • Hotel general manager Joseph Richard

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