Albert Hayes Jr., a Eunice St. Landry Parish School Board member, appeals to the St. Landry Parish Council on Wednesday to reconsider a $500 a month fee to lease property that is used for a Head Start center in Opelousas. Also standing, waiting to talk, are School Board members, left of Haynes, Raymond Cassimere, Denise Rose and Joyce Haynes. (Photo by Harlan Kirgan)
Head Start lease headed for another round of negotiations
The months long back and forth over a lease for parish-owned property in Opelousas is going to take at least another month.
The St. Landry Parish Council was ready to approve a lease for $500 a month for the property where a Head Start center is located on in Opelousas.
The parish owns the property and the building is owned by Head Start, which operates on a federally-funded budget separate from the School Board.
At a Jan. 2 committee meeting, Council members backed off a $1,125 a month price for the property on Martin Luther King Drive adjacent to the St. Landry Parish Airport. The settled on a $500 a month, down even from a $525 price once considered.
On Jan. 10, Ken Marks, a Port Barre area Parish Council member, met with the St. Landry Parish School Board and informed them about the $500 a month price.
Marks said the the Head Start lease began in 1992. There was an exit clause in the contract if the lease was not paid and there has been no payment in 20 to 25 years, he said.
Marks also said federal money cannot be spent without contractual arrangements. The Council is also required to get fair market value for its property.
Marks was immediately met with blowback from School Board members.
Donnie Perron, a Port Barre area School Board member, called on other Board members to attend the Parish Council meeting on Wednesday.
And the School Board members did. They packed the meeting room at the Old City Market to one-by-one ask for the Council to reconsider its pricing.
School Board member Albert Hayes Jr., of Eunice, said, “Remember, this piggy bank belongs to the children and you don’t need to break it in order to make your ends meet.”
Hayes noted the city of Eunice owns the Head Start center building and property in Eunice and does not charge Head Start.
“Every penny you save Head Start is for children. That is one less food drive. It is one less raffle,” Hayes said.
Newly-elected School Board member Denise Rose asked the Council to return to the original $60 a year fee or accept $100 a month that Council member Dexter Brown proposed at the Jan. 2 meeting.
“Give us an opportunity to get started and to what is best for the children,” Rose said.
The St. Landry Parish School Board took control of Head Start in the Parish in September.
School Superintendent Patrick Jenkins thanked the Council for reducing the price fro $1,125 a month to $500, but asked that the original $60 a year lease be reinstated.
But the most immediate request was the Council to table the item, which it did.
The lease goes back to the Council’s Administrative-Finance Committee, is scheduled to meet at Feb. 6.