LETTER: Bayou Cane chief responds to councilman’s criticism of millages

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Dear Editor,

As chief of Bayou Cane Fire Department, I would like to publicly thank Mr. Hood for supporting our efforts to renew the current millage and all of the things he has done for the department in the past. I’d like to let Mr. Hood know that we appreciate his efforts extended to this department and we acknowledge that he is entitled to his opinion.

However, I do take exemption to what he attempts to represent as fact.

As the newly hired fire chief of this great department, I assure each and every one of you that no one is getting a raise on top of the state-mandated 2 percent. I want to make it clear that if anyone from the department is saying this, it is nothing more than wishful thinking. In fact, when we approached the council, we directly answered a question to a member of the council that the increase would not go to raises above the state mandate.

Another example of spreading incorrect information is the so-called “Capital Items Needed” list.

Actually, it was nothing more than a list of items that were put on hold and a “wish list” that was put together under the previous administration. Many of the items were projects that were discussed by the prior fire chief and former district board. This document is not of my creation nor has it been presented to the current board for any consideration. Besides, a wish list is not a budgeted expense.

Information is being distributed to the public regarding cuts that will have to be made if the increase doesn’t pass. These are facts, not threats or political rhetoric. Unfortunately, the financial situation we are in is what it is. Without the increase, firefighters will be laid off, at least one station will be closed, response times will suffer, services will be cut and our operational capabilities will be affected. All of these factors will put people’s lives and property in jeopardy.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, I spoke with Mr. Hood over the phone. During the course of our conversation, I offered several times to meet with him face-to-face to discuss any issues he may have with the department. He declined my invitation.

He did inform me that he received complaints regarding the calls we respond to: trucks at restaurants and trucks/crews shopping.

This was the first time I received any information regarding a crew shopping at Academy Sports. This situation was handled and this is not an accepted practice that will continue. As far as the trucks and crews being at restaurants and grocery stores, the employees are allowed to go eat and purchase groceries for cooking at the stations. This occurs daily within the parish as well as others with not only the fire service but law enforcement as well. The crews are on duty for 24 hours and, while they may be picking up food and supplies, they drop what they are doing and respond to the call.

Regarding the number of trucks and equipment at an emergency scene, we are mandated by the Property Insurance Association of LA to send a specific number of apparatus as well as personnel. Until those requirements are changed, I don’t see our response guidelines changing. It is important to note that we have cut out some responses all together and we are sending fewer units to more calls than the previous administration.

In closing, I want each of you to know that Bayou Cane Fire Department is committed to protecting the lives and the property of the citizens of this district. I pledge to you all that we will continue to strive to give you a department that you can be proud to call your own.

Unfortunately, you will spend more money whether the increase passes or not. For if the proposed increase fails, the department’s insurance rating will drop to a 3 or 4. This change will trigger an increase in your property premiums, which, in the long, will undoubtedly be more than the increase in your property tax.

So, the question you are faced with is would you rather pay your insurance company or would you rather pay an increase to continue the level of service your department provides?

Kenneth P. Himel Jr.,

Fire Chief, Bayou Cane Fire Department