As part of an effort to improve fire protection services parishwide, Lafayette Consolidated Government has allocated funds to add paid firefighting positions to each municipality outside of Lafayette.
The parish-funded boost to Broussard, Carencro, Scott and Youngsville funds one new part-time firefighter position to those departments, while Judice and Milton will each add two. Duson is also funding a second new part-time position on its own dime as part of the town’s funding agreement with parish government.
The 2015-16 city-parish budget shows an additional $48,000 in parish funds allocated to Judice and Milton’s departments, which used to rely solely on volunteers and neighboring departments for fire protection. Another $23,000 is going to Broussard, Carencro, Scott and Youngsville, and $26,000 to Duson.
Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit said funding for Duson, Judice and Milton went into effect in June, with funds for the others taking effect Nov. 1.
The firefighters do not receive Lafayette Consolidated Government benefits, as they’re technically employed by their respective municipalities, but the consolidated government does cover workman’s compensation for the employees.
A consultant earlier this year urged city-parish government to improve services or face the risk of lower fire ratings and higher fire insurance costs for property owners, especially in unincorporated areas that are home to about one-third of the parish population.
Those areas have a fire insurance rating of 5, compared with a 2 for the city of Lafayette, a 3 for Scott and a 4 for Broussard, Carencro, Youngsville and Duson. Fire ratings can range from a 1, the best score, to a low of 10.
Broussard, Carencro and Scott have taken additional moves by paying volunteer firefighters a fixed amount for each time they respond. Fire chiefs in those areas say the incentive has been a major boon for the amount of volunteers who show up for a call.
Carencro Fire Chief Donald Chauvin said response times have even improved since implementing the incentive a year ago.
“It’s been a drastic improvement,” Chauvin said.
All parish fire employees have now received a two percent pay raise, pushing the parish up between fourth and fifth statewide in terms of pay, Benoit said.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.