The West Baton Rouge Parish Council introduced an ordinance Thursday evening, January 9, during their regular council meeting, that, if adopted, will merge the parishes six fire sub-districts into one fire district.
During last year’s state legislative session, on June 5, a law was put into effect that allowed the WBR Parish Council to create one fire district to allocate fire protection monies as they see fit. Currently West Baton Rouge has six fire sub-districts.
According to the law, the parish council has until July 1, 2014 to enact the ordinance.
WBR Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot said Monday afternoon that the ordinance was introduced in Thursday’s meeting and that it must be adopted before he hires the new chief, though he is close to a decision.
We introduced an ordinance, so we’ve got that straight,” Berthelot said. “I’m going to ask the council to ratify on the 13th, so probably before that I will already have talked to one of the two people that I am looking at as the finalists. And I’ll probably tell the council before the meeting.”
Berthelot said that prior to Thursday’s meeting, rumors had been spreading through the parish that he had already chosen a chief and they would make an announcement during the meeting, but he verified that a decision has not yet been made and the council must introduce, which they did during the meeting, and adopt the ordinance before any further steps can be taken.
Berthelot said that of nine applicants, he has narrowed the search to two, both of whom work in fire sub-districts within the parish.
“After we looked at all the applications, any of these four would be just as good as anyone. They already know the terrain, they know the districts, they know the problems, they know the things that we’re going to have to do to get it fixed,” he said. “I think it’s just going to be much easier to hire one of the local people… I kind of preferred to do that instead of bringing somebody new… And I know whoever I get, they’re used to working here.”
Berthelot said that, aside from him, others involved in the interview process to find the fire chief are Jason Manola, Executive Assistant to the Parish President; Butch Browning, Louisiana State Fire Marshal; and Gary Spillman, WBR Parish Council Member.
“We all sat down on the interviews and we all left pretty much on the same page for who we felt were the strongest out of (those interviewed),” Berthelot said.
In other business, the council passed a variance for a future 100,000-square feet warehouse to be built on Commercial Drive.
The company, which is presently unknown, had to get a variance on the property because of the shape of the building and its proximity to Commercial Drive, according to Lynn Cline, assistant coordinator for planning, subdivision and zoning matters.
Cline said that the proposed warehouse will be 100,809-square feet with a proposed future expansion of another 60,000-square feet.
“It’s a new business to West Baton Rouge,” Cline said. “We’re very excited about the economic development here!”
Berthelot agreed, saying that the company that bought the property has been extremely secretive about what business will occupy the mega-warehouse.
“They sold that 10 acres and they’re building a 100,000-square foot warehouse. I think it’s going to be some kind of distribution center,” he said, adding that he simply wasn’t sure.
He said that he expects the business to make an announcement soon, as all they were waiting for before construction was the variance that was passed in Thursday evening’s meeting.