AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council, sitting as commissioners of Rural Fire Protection District Number 2 Monday, came under sometimes scathing criticism from a spokesman for the parish’s Fire Chief’s Association.
The remarks came from Frank Gerarve, chief of the Natalbany Volunteer Fire Department, during a discussion about the proposed renewal of a contract for 2014 between the parish and the parish’s 11 rural fire departments. In 2012, the council established a new structure of how the departments were to be governed and chose an administrator to oversee all the departments which had previously been autonomous.
Gerarve said the fire departments have contributed $500,000 to fund the administrator’s office, money that could have been used to fighting fires and saving lives. The proposed 2014 budget proposes $259,782 be spent on the administrator’s office.
“You have started the destruction of what was once a very fine parishwide system of dedicated men and women who built fire departments in their areas,” Gerarve said. He said firefighters no longer trust the council.
The rural fire departments are funded through ad valorem taxes voted in by residents of the areas served by the departments.
Gerarve said that at a meeting of the eleven fire chiefs last week, three different versions of the proposed contracts were presented for discussion. He said the council had been deaf to the manner in which the various departments had hoped to be governed.
At the conclusion of his remarks, about 50 firemen who were attending the meeting gave Gerarve a standing ovation.
Council members did not respond to Gerarve’s remarks, but they agreed to table action on the contract renewal so that some changes could be made and the proposed budget for the fire administrator’s operations clarified.
PUBLIC CHANNEL AUTHORIZED : During the regular council meeting which preceded the fire district session, the council approved an agreement that establishes Channel 17 Inc. as the television public, educational and government access channel for Tangipahoa Parish. Councilman Bobby Cortez, who chaired a committee that drew up the agreement, said that establishment of a PEG channel had been a long time coming.
The council has purchased $120,000 in equipment that will be used by Channel 17, Inc., which will not be paid for its services. The equipment was purchased with funds earned on a 0.5 percent franchise fee that is paid to the parish by Charter Communications and AT&T.