Turmoil surrounding Labelle-Fannett Volunteer Fire Dept funding

There seems to be turmoil between the Labelle-Fannett Volunteer Fire Department and the board of the Jefferson County Emergency Services District #4.The Labelle-Fannett fire chief, Charles Sonnier, said he's unhappy with the way the JCESD is managing its budget.

JCESD #4 is designed to provide funding for the Labelle-Fannett and Cheek fire departments, through money paid by taxpayers in those districts.

At Wednesday night's meeting several issues came up, including maintenance desperately needed for emergency equipment.

According to Sonnier, the Labelle-Fannett VFD has already lost a home to fire due to lack of gear.

However, JCESD board president, Jeff Roebuck, said the board has responded to every request made by the fire department and said they were misled when it came to what the department needed.

"In that meeting it was not told that it was a non-functioning truck or that it was a necessity at that time so I don't know what happened with that," Roebuck said.

The budget for 2013 was $510,000 while this year's budget sits at $540,000, Sonnier said that's why he doesn't understand pumping money into outdated gear, instead of buying new equipment.

According to Roebuck the required maintenance seems to be piling up.

"The fire department initially asked us to pay [around] $23,000 to get it up and running," Roebuck said. "Now they're saying it's going to be another $30,000."

Roebuck said he agrees that the equipment is outdated but said it will take time to bring things up to speed.

"With the fire department being volunteer for so many years a lot of the equipment is old," Roebuck said. "There was a lot of deferred maintenance that hadn't been done and we're trying to catch up on all of that."

Cheek's Volunteer Fire Department feared losing its truck after a proposal to house it at Labelle-Fannett's department, but after the meeting the assistant fire chief, J. Francis, said his questions were answered and he's happy with the work from JCESD #4.

"That was a big concern for the community that we would possibly lose our better engine," Francis said, "but again that was just options and yes we're pleased with the results."

In addition to these issues, the board also addressed the proposed new tax rate for the upcoming year that would slightly decrease from the current 9 cents to 8.7 cents. However, JCESD #4 will host two public hearings before that rate is finalized, on Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 at Labelle-Fannett Fire Department.


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