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|OPPJ approves ban on fundraising along parish roads|
People can no longer to stand along Ouachita Parish roads to solicit money from motorists, the police jury decided Monday at its regular meeting.
Before voting on an ordinance to prohibit fundraising along parish roads, police jurors heard from Ouachita Parish firefighter Steve Odom, president of the Ouachita Parish Fire Department's union. Odom asked the police jury to consider revising its proposed ordinance banning fundraising activities to allow firefighters to collect money along parish roads for Muscular Dystrophy Association. He said fire departments across the country have raised funds for MDA in this manner for the past 30 years.
"We are probably the ones who gave people the idea to stand in street corners," Odom said. "But, it's not just us, this is a national campaign."
Local fire departments also raise money for MDA through a food drive and golf tournament. Those events, along with soliciting funding from motorists, typically provide the fire department with up to $22,000 each year to send to MDA, Odom said.
Police jury president Shane Smiley first brought the fundraising matter before the police jury in June after he received several phone calls from concerned residents. He said people were concerned about the safety of the children who frequently line up along roadways for fundraising activities.
Another issue of concern was many were young children who sometimes darted in and out of traffic. Sometimes there was not any adult supervision, either, Smiley said. In many cases, those involved in fundraising activities left litter along the roadways after they were done, Smiley said.
Odom said he understood the police jury's concerns, but he urged police jurors to consider how the firefighters operate their fundraising activities. Regarding the safety concern, Odom said firefighters wear uniforms and protective vests. They also do not dart in and out of traffic.
While motorists may not know exactly why youths raise money or for which cause, that is not the case with firefighters, Odom said.
"When you see a firefighter on the road holding a boot, you know it's for MDA," Odom said. He also said the firefighters do not litter during their fundraising events.
"We work for the public, and if we littered, that would just give us a black eye," Odom continued. "We've been doing this for over 30 years, and we've been professional about it."
He asked for jurors to possibly include an age limit in the ordinance so firefighters would still be able to collect funds for MDA.
Smiley said since he brought the matter up about six weeks ago, he has not heard any "word from anyone regarding this." Smiley then moved to adopt the ordinance, which passed 5-1. Police juror Charles Jackson was the only juror who voted against the ordinance.