Council unanimously denies change to firearm discharge ordinance
The West Baton Rouge Parish Council voted down a proposed change to an ordinance that would ban the discharge of firearms within 500 feet of streets, homes or businesses during the Thursday, Nov. 12 meeting.
Councilman Alan Crowe initiated the motion to deny, which passed unanimously. The ordinance was proposed on behalf of local law enforcement following increased complaints of semi-automatic firearms being fired in the northern part of the parish.
Several citizens spoke out against the change, calling it overly broad and an infringement of constitutional rights. The language banned all forms of projectiles including BB guns, slingshots and technically, even spitballs. Others noted that guns are often used as self-defense by farmers from criminals and pests.
Building permit consolidation on the horizon
The Parish Council adopted a resolution authorizing the consolidation of the building permit process in West Baton Rouge. The parish officially entered into an Intergovernmental Services Agreement with Port Allen, Addis and Brusly.
The agreement consolidates municipalities’ differing building permit acquisition processes into a one-stop-shop at parish government. The parish already handles all inspections and paperwork for the permits and splits revenues, though each town has its own forms, fees and steps for vetting contractors.
The parish government currently splits fees with towns 50/50 but will move to a 75/25 split in the new agreement. If the municipality opts out of participating, the city or town will be responsible for hiring inspectors and handling all paperwork. WBR Parish Government has handled the building permit process for Gross Tete and Rosedale through similar agreements for several years, collecting 100% of the fees associated with the permits.
The new agreement will go into effect in 2021 upon the expiration of the current contract. Addis is the only municipality to have signed on to the consolidation. The matter will go before the Brusly Town Council during the December meeting, Town Clerk Blaine Rabalais said.
Port Allen is also expected to decide whether to opt in or out of the agreement by the end of the year.
Onsite dry hydrants optional, not required
The Parish Council rejected an ordinance that would require new residences built more than 800 feet from an established fire hydrant to construct on an onsite dry hydrant at the cost of the property owner.
Fire Chief Tim Crockett urged the council to take the ordinance seriously. He described the dry hydrants as an insurance policy to help prevent the Fire Department from being liable for out-of-range fires.
The expense of a dry hydrant installation depends on local regulations and the length of pipe needed. One citizen claimed the process cost $12,000 on a property in Ascension Parish.
The council voted against the ordinance but plans to include language encouraging the optional installation of the hydrants to protect the parish from liability.