Bridge Center agreement, parish attorney search on Metro Council agenda tonight

Metro Council
The Baton Rouge Metro Council.

The Metro Council will weigh in on the mayor’s cooperative endeavor agreement with The Bridge Center at its meeting this evening, as well as the launch of a search process for a permanent parish attorney.

Council members will also decide whether to hold a hearing to remove the director of the parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control district, entomologist Todd Walker, under fire for questionable spending at his agency’s new $11.2 million facility.

As for The Bridge Center, the council will hold a public hearing and vote on the CEA the mayor’s office is executing with the long-planned mental health diversion facility,

which parish taxpayers agreed to finance via a 1.5-mill property tax, expected to generate some $60 million over a decade.

The Bridge Center will contract with third-party licensed providers offering various services, including a mobile assessment team, crisis assessment center, sobering beds, detox program and behavioral health respite program.

The CEA hearing comes amid a push for greater Bridge Center transparency, stemming for some early frustration with the lack of information available about the center’s progress, stalled after it focused on diversifying its board.

The Bridge Center hasn’t nailed down a location yet, though it is still eyeing the Baton Rouge General Mid City campus, says board chair Kathy Kliebert, adding a decision can be made once the CEA moves forward.

The Metro Council will also decide tonight whether to begin the search process to appoint a permanent East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney, a position vacated in January when Lea Anne Batson abruptly resigned amid an effort to remove her from the post.

Councilman Chandler Loupe, who was involved in the effort to remove Batson, sponsored the item, authorizing the council administrator to advertise for applicants to submit résumés for the position. If approved, applicants must submit a resume within 60 days of date of the first advertisement.

It’s still unclear how the selection process will proceed following the 60 days. Last time the Metro Council hired a new parish attorney, after a Loupe-led firing of Mary Roper in 2014, a search committee was formed to vet candidates and present recommendations to the council, which took months.

The search follows the controversial effort to oust Batson, which unveiled deeper issues within the parish attorney’s office, particularly those involving her first assistant at the time, Tedrick Knightshead.

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