City Council splits vote on used fire equipment

Published 8:16 am Friday, April 24, 2015

A resolution authorizing the City of Bogalusa to accept 10 self-contained breathing apparatus packs donated by the City of Crowley for use by the Bogalusa Fire Department in an intergovernmental agreement was accepted, but not before some council members argued vehemently against the measure.

The resolution passed 4-3. District B Councilwoman Tamira Smith, District C Councilman Brian McCree, himself a former fireman, and District E Councilwoman Sherry Fortenberry voted against accepting the equipment.

Equipment that comes with the breathing packs includes a harness, mask and a pass device that sounds an alarm whenever a fireman is down.

Bogalusa Fire Department Chief Richard Moody said the lone cost to the city is $300 in attorney fees to cover Crowley’s cost for sending the packs to Bogalusa.

“Crowley got a grant to get some new ones,” Moody said. “Refurbished packs cost $1,500-$2,000. Brand new ones are $5,500 apiece, so 10 would be $55,000 total. We intend to use them only to be rated next year.”

Moody said the city is not eligible to write a grant for new equipment until 2021.

McCree retired after 25 years with the fire department. He was not at all pleased about receiving the used devices.

“If this stuff was any good, they would have kept it for themselves,” McCree said. “I challenge the council to let the chief set a house on fire and you all go in with these packs on.”

Councilman-at-large Doug Ritchie in turn issued a challenge to McCree.

“I challenge you to come up with the money to buy new equipment,” Ritchie said.

In other matters, the City Council accepted a resolution calling for a special election in Bogalusa for renewal of a special tax. The election will be on Oct. 24, 2015.

The question on the ballot will ask if the city shall be allowed to continue to levy and collect a special ad valorem tax of 2.75 mills on all the property subject to taxation within the city. An estimated $181,000 is expected to be collected from the tax over 10 years, beginning in 2016 and ending in 2025. The purpose of the tax is to pay the costs of providing retirement and pension benefits for the city’s retirement system.

The council also accepted a resolution making April as “Safe Digging Month.”

An ordinance to change 820 Robert “Bob” Hicks Street from A-3 Residential to B-1 Business was approved for a snoball stand to be opened.

Also, an ordinance authorizing Mayor Wendy Perrette to contract with low bidder North Shore General Contractors for cleaning asbestos abated lots was accepted. North Shore bid $4,977 to clean 1712 S. Columbia St., 707 Pontchartrain Ave., and 712 Okechobee Ave.

Two ordinances were introduced, and they will be up for public discussion and Council vote on May 5.

The first ordinance authorizes a Professional Service Agreement to hire Byron Stewart Consultants for grants, business and legislative matters. The second ordinance is a request to close the remaining alleyway in the 400 block between Superior and Ontario avenues.

The Council voted 6-1 to accept William Spade Morris and Mark Irvine as new members of the City Planning and Zoning Commission per Perrette’s recommendation. McCree cast the dissenting vote.

During the public participation segment, Bogalusa’s Floyd Burdeaux voiced various concerns.

Burdeaux said he has noticed some residences in the city don’t have numerical addresses, which makes it difficult for ambulances and other emergency responders difficult to locate. He also said there should be a “No U-Turn” sign in front of the U.S. Post Office on Avenue B.

“I’ll say five out of 10 people parked in front of the post office make a U-turn and go the other way back to town,” Burdeaux said.

Burdeaux also said a one-way traffic sign on Sycamore Street behind the post office on the side of the high school is needed. He said M.J. Israel Drive that runs by the school auditorium needs repairs.

Bogalusa’s Joel Miller said he felt the north side of town needed a fire station. The closest is the station across from Bogalusa City Hall.

Parish President Richard Thomas spoke and asked for support for all millage tax renewals on the May 2 ballot. Renewals are 4.13 mills for public roads and bridges, 1.03 mills for the courthouse and public buildings, 3.11 mills for the public health unit and 4.6 mills for the public library system.