- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PORT ALLEN, La. (AP) - West Baton Rouge Parish officials say efforts to consolidate six fire sub-districts into one parish-wide operation are almost complete as the July 1 deadline draws near.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1inyCCR ) the parish council introduced a $1.3 million budget last week that will guide the first six months of spending for the new parish-wide fire district.

Fire Chief Charles Stephens has drafted an organizational chart that maps out the new fire district’s personnel structure and operation procedures.

Merging the fire sub-districts in Port Allen, Addis, Brusly, Lobdell, Erwinville and Rosehill won’t mean dramatic changes in fire service.

“If we suddenly changed something, then (fire) ratings would probably spike really high and that would end up costing people more on their home insurance,” Parish President Riley Berthelot said. “We’re working everything out at a slow rate so we won’t upset any of the fire ratings.”

He said the six sub-districts will remain “pretty much” structured the way they are now.

The biggest change will be the creation of a civil service board, which will handle personnel matters for the new consolidated district.

Berthelot said a firefighter and an appointee from both the Parish Council and Office of State Examiners will make up the three-member board.

Stephens said the board’s creation is required for the consolidation.

“We will fall under civil service because we will be a parish-wide fire district,” Stephens said. “The parish’s civil service board will provide the parish-wide Fire Department with some rules that we will have to follow as far as employee hiring, firing and disciplinary actions.”

In the meantime, the Parish Council is set to hold a public hearing and consider adopting the proposed $1.3 million budget for the parish Fire Department at its June 12 meeting.

Revenue for the new fire district will be generated by a parish-wide half-cent sales tax dedicated to fire service. The sales tax generates about $2 million annually.

Phillip Bourgoyne, the parish’s finance director, said he used recent financial audit reports for each of the fire sub-districts to outline projected spending for new fire district.

The proposed budget is a six-month spending plan for July 1 to Dec. 31.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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