Parish President Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot said the councils of the three municipalities, Addis, Brusly and Port Allen, have approved concurring resolutions for the parish to go forward with one fire district per a state Senate bill signed into law June 5;
however, Berthelot said an intention of the law may be missing from the law.
He said when the bill first passed a state Senate committee in May, it was intended that each fire sub-district remain under the budgetary control of their respective municipality until July 1, 2014, or such time that the parish could effectively consolidate into one fire district.
However, Berthelot said that intention was not explicitly stated in the law, meaning, the parish may now have to go back to the councils of the three municipalities to ask for cooperative endeavor agreements.
Port Allen Fire Chief Rick Boudreaux said he was reviewing the law recently when he noticed the mistake and brought it to the Parish President’s attention.
Boudreaux said the Port Allen City Council also doubles as the Fire Sub-District No. 3 fire board, but, “The law deleted the board.”
Berthelot said Thursday, July 11, a cooperative endeavor agreement was still in the works.
He also issued a warning to council members that he does not want to “move so quickly (with the fire district) that we end up making some mistakes.”
Berthelot said the parish would soon begin meeting with fire ratings officials, civil service officials, parish council members, the six fire chiefs, and other necessary individuals in order to “bring everybody together.”
Council Chairman Gary Spillman echoed Berthelot’s desire for thoroughness and collaboration.
“We want to make sure that whenever we do something, when it comes to it and we start working on this, all of us work together,” Spillman said.
He said he would love to see the parish consolidate into one fire district by the end of the year, “But can I swear that that’s going to be done?”
Spillman said the ultimate end-goal of July 1, 2014 will give the parish enough time to do what they need to do.
Council member Randal Mouch asked if the parish could repay or partially repay the $15,000 the Brusly fire sub-district spent on a lobbyist for the fire bill for the spring session of the Louisiana State Legislature.
Brusly Mayor Joey Normand said he appreciated Mouch’s gesture but the parish is ultimately “paying for it anyway” once the fire sub-districts consolidate and the parish retains control of all fire district funds.
“What you have to watch for a little bit more,” Normand said, “is some of the sub-districts spending a lot of money right now when they have it. But we won’t go into that.”