The chief of a Livingston Parish fire protection district vowed to fight to keep the department open after voters on Saturday narrowly struck down a tax renewal in Holden.
Livingston Parish Fire Protection District 10 Chief Warren Stewart says he plans to push to get the tax renewal on ballots in February to give voters a chance to reconsider.
“If we have to go door-to-door, explaining to people why this is important, then that’s what we’ll do,” Stewart said.
Voters struck down the renewal with a six-ballot margin, yanking away the $172,000 in tax revenue the fire protection district uses for day-to-day operations like equipment, fuel and insurance.
The 894 people who voted amounted to a 39.1 percent voter turnout, according to unofficial results from the secretary of state’s website.
“I don’t feel it was a true representation of how the community feels,” he said.
Stewart blamed the loss on low turnout and said voters may have misinterpreted the renewal as a new tax or expansion of the Fire Protection District, rather than strictly a renewal.
“It makes us think the ballots should have been worded differently,” Stewart said.
The Fire Protection District is fully funded for 2015 and will continue to run until the money runs outs, Stewart said.
But without a local fire department, Holden’s fire class rating will jump from 4 to 10, which means homeowners could see significant bumps in their insurance rates, Stewart said.
“That’s why this doesn’t make any sense to us,” he said.
District 10 operates three stations, covering about 90 square miles between Interstate 12 and the St. Helena Parish line. About two dozen volunteers handle between 300 and 400 calls per year, Stewart said.
“These guys wake up in the middle of the night and run to these calls for free,” Stewart said. “Everybody in the Fire Department is kind of hurt right now.”
Stewart, 42, a Holden native, has volunteered for District 10 since 1984.
In the meantime, he said he plans to cut costs where he can, including maintaining the district’s fleet of vehicles in-house.
“You just hope the vote was a misunderstanding,” he said. “Because if it wasn’t, that means there are 450 people out there who think we’re not doing a good job. And that’s a kick in the teeth.”
Follow Matt McKinney on Twitter, @Mmckinne17.