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Board faces question about repair or replace jail doors

The Eunice Board of Aldermen faced a question about whether to repair or replace electronic doors at the city jail during their meeting Tuesday.
Police Chief Randy Fontenot had presented a proposal from a company to repair the 40-year-old electronic doors. The company estimated the cost at $113,000.
Mayor Scott Fontenot said the cost could be greater than the company’s quote.
In a Dec. 18, 2020, letter to the mayor and council, the police chief stated the doors have been in serious disrepair and inoperable for several years.
“Because of the inoperability of the doors we are unable to isolate inmates from each other which is a danger to the inmates and a liability to the city,” the chief wrote.
“There are also times when police department and jail personnel are required to enter the jail. Being unable to lockdown inmates causes a serious threat to the safety of officers and personnel. The public is also placed a risk because escape becomes relevant possibility,” he stated.
One incident involving the doors occurred when an inmate closed a cell door and firefighters had to be called in with extrication equipment to open the door, he said at the meeting.
Officers have resorted to using chains and padlocks to secure doors to segregate inmates, he said.
Alderwoman Germaine Simpson said the cost of replacing the doors should be obtained along with repair estimates. The city could pay $100,000 or more to repair the old doors only to have them fail again, she said.
Simpson also said the city since the inmates are in the jail for petty crimes, ankle monitors should be considered. Once someone is placed in the jail the city becomes responsible for their care, she said.
The mayor said state law does not require the city to have a jail. Running a jail is expensive and a “huge liability” to the city, he said.
He questioned the city spending money on something that is not its responsibility.
Simpson said she understands the need for the city judge to have place to sentence offenders, but ankle monitors may be less expensive.
Other business at Tuesday’s meeting included:
— Approved a resolution in support of applying for a state Local Government Assistance Program grant up to $50,000. The mayor said the city would ask for money to repair a lift station at North 12th Street and Vine Avenue.
— Retired firefighter Keith Vidrine was appointed to the Eunice Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
— A show cause hearing on condemnation is scheduled at the February meeting for 340 N. East St. The property is adjudicated to St. Landry Parish.

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Eunice, LA 70535
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