Fire Board President Shawn Beard reported on the financial status of the fire department at the jury meeting on Wednesday. In addition to announcing that an interim chief would be named Friday (today), Beard said they are trying to work through the books of the department to determine their exact financial status. He said the work is underway, but the exact position is yet to be determined.
Jury Vice President Ben Taylor asked if the resignation of Chief Shane Felts would affect the day to day operation of the fire department. Beard said, “We have captains on each shift. They are well trained, know their responsibility and what they need to do. Not having a chief for a time is not a big issue. We will appoint someone as quickly as possible.”
Money was the big issue discussed. Jurors also questioned Beard about department needs, equipment, and other things. Jury Supervisor Jessie Davis said, “We will help with equipment and other stuff I think they might need.” Davis also offered to help with applying for grants.
After a lengthy discussion of finances, Juror Shane Young asked, “If we catch up everything that is now owed, will we be in the hole?” Beard said, “I’m not sure right now. We are still researching financials.” References was made to an ongoing effort to get records from the fire department’s payroll firm, PMI and from other sources. District Attorney Julie Jones and fire department Secretary Rachal Long are trying to secure records so that the fire department can get a clearer picture of where their finances stand.
Beard said, “Unfortunately now it doesn’t look good. We’re not in the hole right now. We had $581,000 in the bank when the new board took over this month. Monday we voted to pay some bills and catch up the Firefighters Retirement System (past due amounts) that was close to $100,000. The total we spent was a little over $200,000.”
There were questions from jury members about the rate of pay currently in place, the size of the staff, and how this compares to surrounding parishes. Beard said the current crew size of 5 people on a truck going out on a call is where it needs to be. He added, “We’re looking to shift adjustments and ideas. We will have to work with civil service if we have any changes necessary.” Jury President Tray Murray asked if salaries are comparable with other parishes. Beard said they are actually high.
Beard concluded his presentation with a promise to report back to the Police Jury at each monthly meeting as more information is obtained and the fire department’s financial status become more clear.