APSO to take over maintenance of Jail from Ascension Parish

Sheriff Bobby Webre

It cost approximately $2.5 million to operate Ascension Parish Jail.  That is according to the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) between the parish and Sheriff Bobby Webre presented to the Parish Council Finance Committee on Monday.  Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, which staffs the facility owned by Ascension Parish, is taking over “day-to-day maintenance, expense and upkeep” from the parish.

Final approval of the CEA is up to the full Parish Council, but appears to be a mere formality.

Operating Expenditures include:

  • Salaries and Benefits
  • Utilities and Telephone
  • Equipment and Miscellaneous Rentals
  • Building Maintenance
  • Maintenance and Supplies of Vehicles and Equipment
  • Engineering Fees
  • Officers and Operating Supplies
  • Fuel
  • Travel and Training
  • Major Repairs
  • Feeding and Maintenance of Prisoners
  • Prisoner and Inmate Transportation
  • Miscellaneous Expenses

Ascension Parish Jail (the sixth in parish history going back to 1806), on Lemannville Cutoff Road in the shadow of the Sunshine Bridge, was first “dedicated and occupied on March 27, 1976.”  Built by local contractors for $75,000 through federal revenue sharing, the jail could accommodate 54 prisoners including 16 beds for females.  Fast forward 46 years and two major renovations/additions, and the parish’s jail can accommodate 572 prisoners.

There was a $5 million expansion in 1989, another in 2008 which cost $9 million.  With Ascension’s  continually expanding population, additional capacity in the Parish Jail is an ever more pressing need.

The CEA calls for maintenance savings to be deposited in the Jail Construction Fund.

Any funds unspent by the Sheriff at the end of each Parish Fiscal Year shall be accounted for by the Sheriff by February 1 to the Parish and transferred to the Ascension Parish Jail Construction Fund to be created and maintained by the Sheriff.

Warden Tony Nethken and his staff have “eyes on the ground” every day, better positioned to know what needs to be repaired and how those precious maintenance dollars can best be allocated.  Plus, some of the necessary maintenance can probably done in-house and/or by trustees.  Eliminating some of the procurement bureaucracy is a no-brainer.

“Some parts of the jail are approaching 50 years old,” Sheriff Webre noted on Monday.  “We confront more and more challenges, especially with electrical and plumbing.  We think we can do it more efficiently…(allowing) for more capital outlay projects.”

State law mandates that each parish governing authority is responsible for “physical maintenance” of the respective parish jails, but CEAs are specifically allowed in Louisiana’s Constitution.