As the new year begins, the law enforcement situation in Sorrento, which lost its Police Department insurance coverage in November, remains murky.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide law enforcement at no charge for the town through Jan. 7, the date of the town’s next council meeting.
And, The Advocate reported the Sorrento Police Department – consisting only of Police Chief Earl Theriot, who is on medical leave, and Assistant Police Chief Ricky Smith – still does not have liability coverage.
Mayor Mike Lambert said he and the council are waiting for a recommendation from Theriot.
“I have no proposals from the chief of police. I’m not going to call a special meeting just to have a special meeting; it costs money,” Lambert said.
“We can talk all we want to, until we’re blue in the face, but until he (the police chief) presents a plan” nothing can happen, Lambert said. “He has to present to the council any actions (he might recommend), and we will ratify.”
Theriot could not be reached for comment.
Liability insurance coverage for Sorrento’s police department ended on Nov. 19, when Risk Management, a subsidiary of the Louisiana Municipal Association, stopped coverage.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office provided law enforcement free of charge through Dec. 31, then extended that until Jan. 7.
“He’s being gracious to do that,” Lambert said of Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley.
Lambert said he believes Sorrento is not financially able to maintain a police department. He said one option for Sorrento is to return to unincorporated area status.
Sorrento is a town of about 1,400 residents. Its largest employer is Sorrento Lumber Co.
Councilman Randy Anny said he’s concerned that Sorrento has lost one source of revenue – fines once collected by police. The town’s other major revenue sources are property taxes, occupational license fees and sales taxes.
Anny said he’s worried that River Parishes Community College’s move from Sorrento to Gonzales in 2014 will cost the town sales tax revenue as students and faculty eat meals and shop elsewhere.
“We’ve got to have a short-term plan and a long-term plan and crunch numbers” to provide for law enforcement, Anny said.
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