Fire dept. financing proposal a long shot

Published 12:35 pm Thursday, August 28, 2014

A recent proposal to consolidate financial resources for all fire departments within Washington Parish was discussed by parish government officials during a recent meeting. The body did not act on the proposal.

Franklinton Police Department’s Justin Brown said he requested the Aug. 19 meeting with parish government in an effort to streamline parish resources based on research he had done.

“Currently, our fire districts operate solely on the revenue they receive from parish property taxes within their independent taxing districts,” Brown said. “Some districts have a large tax base and can adequately procure equipment without much financial hardship. Those districts that have a smaller tax base may experience difficulty in obtaining equipment. Fire equipment is astronomically expensive and a necessary requirement with regard to fire ratings and standards, not to mention public safety.”

Brown said his research told him all fire districts except for District 7 were ineligible for grant funds.

Brown said, “The cause behind the ineligibility is the fire districts operate under an agreed-upon procedures policy with regard to finances instead of a governmental audit.”

Brown said he prepared a proposal to all the entities involved, including Washington Parish Infrastructure Committee Chairman Aubrey Posey, to learn the legalities and governmental authority to further explore the idea.

“I explained that the proposal must be initiated by the fire districts, and additional research must be conducted,” Brown said. “If the fire districts choose to pursue the plan, they must solicit their respective council members to change the current operating procedure. With the support of the fire districts, the council could then request the legislative approval be given. In essence, a state law must be put into place, and action cannot be taken by the parish council alone.”

Posey said the proposal was a long shot.

“It’s very difficult to start something like this, almost impossible,” Posey said. “I think for that to happen there would have to be a majority, or all the fire departments would have to be in agreement.”

Charlie Chestant, president of the Washington Parish Firefighters Association Board, said the proposal was a result of a huge misunderstanding.

“We were presented a transcript from the minutes of the July 29 parish council meeting. The transcript was not a legitimate transcript. The person who supplied the transcript was either terminated or moved to another position,” Chestant said. “Justin was asked to do the survey. He was misinformed on how volunteer fire departments work, but he got enlightened (Aug. 19).”

There are nine fire districts in Washington Parish, plus Franklinton and Bogalusa.

“The transcript was not the actual minutes from the Washington Parish meeting,” Chestant said. “It was a shortened version put out to hurt whomever. Apparently the source of the transcript has been handled accordingly, we were told. This whole thing got misconstrued.”