Changes could be coming for fire protection in four communities

By Cyndi Sellers

Fire District Consolidation Proposed

Changes could be coming for fire protection in the Cameron, Creole, and Grand Chenier communities. At last Thursday’s Police Jury agenda meeting Cameron/Creole Fire Chief Tim DuPont reported that the two districts and the Grand Chenier Fire District desire to be combined into one unified fire district.

Under the proposal, Dupont would be Fire Chief over all three communities, with a captain in charge of each station. An ordinance change and a tax election combining the finances of the three districts would be required. If a combined tax does not pass, the present tax structure would apply, but money raised in each district would only be used in that district.

Parish Administrator Katie Armentor offered the option of making Dupont a Parish employee and placing the combined fire district under the Police Jury instead of a citizen board. An advisory board could be appointed instead of a governing board, she said. Juror Scott Trahan said he would prefer to continue to have a governing board made up of members from all three communities. State law requires five members on a special fire district board.

Trahan proposed that the Creole Fire Station and Multipurpose building not be rebuilt since it would have to be elevated. Instead, he proposed building a new Creole fire station at the Cameron Recreation Center property and using the Rec Center gym for events. The destroyed fire substations in Cameron and Creole would not be rebuilt, but the Muria Substation would be repaired. The Cameron and Grand Chenier Fire Stations are in good shape to continue operating.

Armentor also proposed training road crew as firefighters, with a fifty cent raise for certification. This would allow the road crew to respond to fires and their hours to be counted toward PIAL ratings. Grand Chenier’s rating is currently a 6, while Cameron and Grand Chenier are at a 5. The certification proposal was later adopted by the Police Jury. The consolidation was deferred for further study and public input.

Long Term Recovery Group

Armentor proposed the formation of a Long-Term Recovery Group to assist residents and businesses with hurricane recovery. The group would be a community organization independent of the Police Jury. It would be a coalition including the Cameron Lions Club, which is already a 501c3 non-profit organization with accounting practices set up for donations and grants. The group would accept donations and use a rated application process to disburse reimbursement grants.

Armentor proposed allowing parish employees to work with the group on their time off, having meetings during lunch breaks for example. She proposed hiring an intern to work 20 hours a week for $11.50 an hour to perform administrative tasks, keep minutes, etc. The proposal was later approved in the voting meeting.

Jetty Pier Damage

Wendy Harrington reported that damage to the Jetty Pier is so severe that it poses a hazard to recreational boaters and a liability to the Parish. She said crews will soon be placing No Trespassing signs and temporary solar hazard lights at the pier, but the liability issue will remain. She recommended demolishing the remains and looking to a FEMA Project Worksheet to rebuild.

The FEMA funds could also be used for an alternative project, perhaps to move the pier to Rutherford Beach as suggested by Scott Trahan. In this case, the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Venture Global LNG to provide a water taxi to the pier for tourism would have to be amended. Sonny McGee remarked that the Parish has a “significant investment” in the Jetty Pier project.

Debris and PPDR

The initial phase of roadside debris removal is complete, but a punch list is being prepared. A “final” final pass will be designated to address the punch list, probably in April. Contractors will be required to fix holes in roadsides and roads damaged by trucks, and debris left behind will be removed.

The Hackberry and Grand Lake solid waste sites are returning to full operation now that debris removal is complete. The lower Cameron Parish sites that were damaged will be returned to service as soon as temporary office can be placed at the sites for the workers.

The Parish is moving ahead with Private Property Debris Removal plans. Damaged houses, tree stumps and downed trees can be removed by FEMA under the program. Landowners will be asked to submit an application including right of entry forms and insurance records. The Office of Emergency Preparedness will oversee the program.