The West Baton Rouge Parish Council amended their general fund budget Thursday, April 10, to reflect the salary of the fire chief Charles Stephens.
Stephens was appointed the position of fire chief in a February 13 parish council meeting where the council unanimously ratified his appointment.
Though Stephens doesn’t start, officially, with the parish until July 1, WBR Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot said that Stephens has been working with the parish and is getting paid directly from the parish now, not from the city.
“We decided ‘you come work for us, we’re going to start getting all of the things in line that we have to do to get ready for you taking over in July,’” Berthelot said. “We allocated the money to pay his salary from our general fund. Once we take over the fire district on July 1, we’ll recoup all that money from the fund balances they’ll have.”
Berthelot said that money from the general fund will also be moved to reflect salary sections for the addition of firefighters, including the assistant fire chief, contingent on the council receiving specific job descriptions and classifications.
He said that he will be “sending a whole packet of job descriptions and classifications that we’re going to come up with that will be for the fire district,” in the April 24 Parish Council Meeting.
He said that once the job descriptions have been handed out, the council will decide whether they are prepared to name an assistant chief.
“We’ve got the money taken care of, and we’ll get the positions taken care of,” he said. “We’ve got quite a bit of stuff we’ll be introducing over the next month - ordinances and things to take over, effective at the end of June, so July 1 we’ll be ready for everything to come underneath the parish.”
The council allotted $74,500 for the chief’s position and $59,300 for the assistant chief.
According to Berthelot, the parish plans to continue to have chiefs in the separate fire sub-districts for a few years, but desire to consolidate them into one district within five years.
“Our three- to five-year goal is to have all of them in one district,” he said. “If we did that to start with, it would effect everybody’s fire ratings and it would probably make them bad.We’re kind of approaching it (cautiously) to make sure we don’t create any bad rating for any of the fire sub-districts.”
The council also allocated funds to go toward the hiring of two part-time employees at the Port Allen Department of Motor Vehicles office.
“The hiring is going to be up to the DMV and they’re still trying to get clearance on it from the (state) Department of Motor Vehicle,” said Berthelot. “We just allocated the money so if they do get cleared, that we’d hire two part-time people to help them out.”
According to the WBR Parish President, the DMV requested the assistance. He said that the parish will advertise for the positions as soon the DMV has clearance from the state.
Berthelot explained that the parish has an agreement with the DMV, located on Louisiana Ave. in Port Allen, supplying janitorial services for the building in exchange for $3 per transaction.
“Now if we take the revenue that we’re getting from them and hire two part-timers, it’ll be a break-even point for the parish and it would help the people. Of course, if they do more transactions, we might get to where we make a little money on it,” he said.
He added that he’d like to sign a cooperative agreement with the Department of Motor Vehicles to give them authority over the workers once they are hired, though they will be parish employees.
“A cooperative agreement would give them total responsible for that employee as far as rule infractions and hiring and firing – it’ll give them that authority,” Berthelot explained.