BAKER — The Baker City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to introduce an ordinance that would create a fire prevention bureau.

Baker Assistant Fire Chief Keith Pease explained that the federal government now requires cities to establish fire prevention bureaus in order to receive points toward their fire rating, which is used to calculate property insurance rates for both businesses and residences.

The points from having a fire prevention bureau used to be bonus points, but now they are part of the overall rating and the city will need the points from maintaining the bureau to keep its “2” rating, he said.

The highest possible rating is a “1.”

In the past, Baker did some of the functions of a fire prevention bureau, but not everything, since the points weren’t required, Pease said.

At the time of the last rating, Baker had 80 points, the minimum needed for a 2 rating, he said.

The city has promoted Baker District Fire Chief Tony Smith to coordinate the fire prevention bureau and establishing the bureau will not cost any additional money, Mayor Darnell Waites said.

Smith will train with the state fire marshal to be able to do business inspections and follow-ups.

The bureau would also be involved in education, running monthly fire drills in Baker public and private schools, and working with teachers to develop fire prevention curricula.

Other work the bureau would do includes help for residents, such as offering free battery changes for house smoke detectors.

Citations would still be done by the state fire marshal.

In a related matter, the council introduced an ordinance that would amend the city’s 911 emergency funds to reflect approximately $160,000 Baker spent in preparation for Hurricane Barry in July.

The city used the money for sandbags, food, and opening the shelter in the city to prepare for the storm, Waites said.

Along with other municipalities in the state, Baker is applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement for the storm preparations; however, the municipalities together must have spent at least $1.6 million total in order to qualify.

Since there is no guarantee of reimbursement, it makes sense to go ahead and amend the budget, Waites said.

The council also heard from Richard Bird, assistant director and operations manager of East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control and Rescue.

Bird told the audience that Baker residents can call his office at (225) 774-7700 if they have any problems with horses or other animals.

Rather than having its own animal control, Baker contracts with the parish for those services.

Unattended and improperly cared-for horses are a problem in the city, Waites said.

By parish law, a horse must be kept on at least one acre of land. If an owner has more than one horse, each additional horse requires an additional half acre, Bird said.

Horses staked onto a piece of property or roaming free with no known owner, or improperly cared for, can be picked up by animal control if a resident complains, he said.

The City of Baker cannot pick up animals, Waites clarified.

In other matters at the council meeting:

  • Waites said Party in the Park, an event to reveal BREC’s master plan for the Baton Rouge Zoo and Greenwood Community Park, will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • The council recognized Jean Byers, who is retiring as director of the Baker Museum after more than 40 years, and Alice Sanders, retiring after 12 years with the Baker utility billing department.
  • Councilwoman Doris Alexander announced that the Baker-Zachary Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Society and the Main Street Pilot Club will hold a candidates forum on Aug. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Ruffins Showroom, 14502 Plank Road in Baker.

Editor's note: This post was modified at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday to add that the Main Street Pilot Club is a cosponsor of the candidates forum. The Advocate regrets the omission.