On July 1, the parish’s six fire sub-districts officially made the move into one parishwide fire district.
The consolidation came as a result of state legislation last year that was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal and ratified by the parish’s three municipalities: Port Allen, Addis and Brusly.
Baton Rouge attorney and lobbyist Dannie Garrett, who worked on the legislation from its inception, said the parish council is serving as the fire district board and the parish is working with the state examiner’s office on organizing a civil service board.
“They will operate under civil service,” Garrett said, “Once that civil service board gets up and running.”
He said parish firefighters “are not parish employees, per se,” because they fall under certain state mandates. “They have their own employee manual,” he said. Garrett said that firefighters can take up to 52 weeks of sick leave a year, citing Louisiana revised statute 33:1995.
“Firefighters are sort of outside of the regular sick leave package,” he said.
Former Port Allen Assistant Fire Chief Charles Stephens was appointed as the parish-wide Fire Chief. Stephens said in February that he wanted to maintain the existing volunteer firefighter base while also expanding it. He said without volunteers, the district would not be able to run as efficiently.
Garrett said that, so far, the only issue he has been contacted about was in Port Allen, when firefighters found that their accrued sick leave from Port Allen would not carry over to their positions with the parish.
Garrett said what is often called the “Port Allen Fire Department,” is actually “a portion (sub-district) of the old fire district number 1,” where the Port Allen city council served as the fire sub-district’s board. He said the fire department had an intergovernmental agreement with the city where the firefighters were treated like city employees.
Former Port Allen Fire Chief Rick Boudreaux said on June 4 that the Port Allen firefighters’ accrued sick leave prior to the consolidation of the sub-districts was not necessary to the parish because the parish was transferring to civil service.
He said the parish was going to pay for their accrued vacation time but that they had “been silent on the sick leave issue.”
Garrett said he spoke with the city attorney.
“What the city of Port Allen ultimately decided to do I’m not sure,” he said.
Port Allen City Attorney Lance Joseph declined to comment on the issue.
“I feel we owe these guys the best we can,” Port Allen City Councilman R.J. Loupe said.
"They want to get what was promised to them when they were hired,” Boudreaux said.