Budget impasse endangers Harahan city services

Budget impasse endangers Harahan city services

HARAHAN, LA (WVUE) - Vital city services in Harahan could be in jeopardy after the town mayor vetoed the budget Monday.

It's the second time in as many years that it has happened, and the mayor accuses the council of practicing "petty politics."

Seniors at Harahan Playground play pickle ball, oblivious to the dark water stains overheard. The roof leak is just one of many infrastructure needs now in jeopardy due to the budget mess Harahan leaders now find themselves in for the second year in a row.

"It's important to get this budget on time. We have some services that we have to provide our residents that can't be delayed or toyed with," said Mayor Tina Micelli.

Micelli vetoed the 2017 budget 30 days into the new year because she said the council added 112 items without adequate public comment in violation of state open meetings laws.

"I'm always concerned about the lawsuit issue," Micelli said. "We have to do things properly."

Aside from roof and pothole repairs, the budget veto also means that the Harahan Police Department won't be getting a 20th officer.

"I'm down two policeman. My number one concern is officer safety," said Harahan Police Chief Tim Walker. He said he was budgeted for two officers, but now that the budget has been vetoed, he worries about losing the one he's already hired.

"How many more lives do we lose? It's not worth it," Walker said.

Harahan's police chief is especially concerned about the budget impasse in light of what happened to 10 days ago when Westwego Officer Michael Louviere was shot to death while intervening in a traffic accident. Walker said he wants enough manpower to protect his officers.

"When they pull someone over, I want them backed up. My main concern is safety," he said.

Micelli said there has been no increase in city crime or calls for service, so 20 officers may be a tall order.

"I need cost-benefit analysis. I didn't get it," Micelli said.

If an agreement isn't reached by the middle of the year, many of Harahan's 65 employees could be let go.

"We have to talk in order to move the city forward," Micelli said.

She said that process needs to begin now, before the budget situation gets worse. We reached out to all five Harahan council members for comment.  Councilman Craig Johnston, responded by air time, saying he's willing to meet with the mayor at any time, adding that police and fire are his top priorities.

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