COVINGTON- The day after the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff explained to parish leaders the long-standing plans to replace his crime lab, Jack Strain opened his door to do the same with the public. He knew recent, new attention on an old project would be a popular topic. The plan for a $10 million crime lab replacement was exactly what two of Friday’s visitors were interested in.
Connie Varuso said, “I just wanted to view it, cost of course and what it was going to provide to the citizens of St. Tammany."
"With the timing of another lab, I think that the public does have a lot of questions," said Sandra Slifer with the League of Women Voters-St. Tammany.
A dated, metal building behind the parish jail in Covington is where testing of guns, drugs, fingerprints and more is currently done. The sheriff says the replacement plan started in 2006, which is why he’s surprised by the sudden scrutiny it’s getting. But Strain says he welcomes the talk because he wants people to know what’s done here isn’t done anywhere else in the parish and it’s needed to keep crime low.
"It's easy for us to believe, why is this necessary if crimes don't occur,” he said, “Well, this isn't the Garden of Eden, crime does occur. What makes us so successful is that when it occurs, we solve it."
The conversation wasn't just about the renewed interest in replacing this building. It also included creating an Inspector General's Office for St. Tammany.
"He was very, very open and somewhat supportive of having an office as long as it looked at everyone," said Slifer.
After the lessons learned with the experience Friday, both the sheriff and the public that participated encourage the rest of the public to get involved.
The League of Women Voters hopes to team up with the sheriff to offer a public tour of the current crime lab and review drawings for the new one in the near future.