Posted: Sep 29, 2022, 3:16 PM
Bossier Parish Fire District #2 Chief Ryan Foster is hoping voters say yes on Tuesday, Nov. 8 to the department's request for a 3.5 mill tax, a millage that will go a long way toward bringing much-needed equipment up to date.
Foster leads a district covering roughly 155 square miles from Sligo Rd. south to the Bossier Parish/Red River Parish line, and he and his department are currently providing services with equipment that is older than some of his personnel.
"Some of our front-line equipment is nearly 30 years old, and with the age of our current fleet it's harder to maintain because of the difficulty in finding parts," he said. "We had to wait six months for engine parts on one of our trucks."
Should voters approve the request, Foster plans to spread the purchase of new equipment over several years rather than borrow money against the anticipated $375,000 income he anticipates the millage will generate.
"We've always stayed within our means and we plan to continue to do that," he said. "That's why we've worked out a plan that will update our equipment over a number of years. We can gradually phase out the old and continue to provide the service our residents deserve. Spending over the long term makes more sense financially."
Foster's plan is to replace just over $4.7 million in equipment. The bulk of the revenue collected will be used to replace apparatus, just under $3.4 million. Equipment replacement is factored by current needs, along with age. Expenditures include:
"We're hoping pricing on equipment remains somewhat stable, but we're also allowing for increases," Foster said. "We think planning over a number of years is the best way to spend prudently and stay within our budget."
While District #2 waits for voters to decide, Foster said the department is not idle, with crews remaining busy with multiple priorities.
A large portion of the department's time is spent meeting PIAL (Property Insurance Association of Louisiana) requirements. PIAL is the agency that rates fire departments. This rating is used, in most cases, to factor what an individual pays yearly for homeowners’ insurance.
“Training is a large portion of this rating, and our current training programs are extensive for our volunteers, full time personnel and our officers," Foster said.
Other PIAL objectives include pump testing apparatus, hose testing, hydrant testing, and performing pre-incident planning of commercial properties, which total around 200. During these inspections, the staff is looking for hazards and identifying areas of concern in the event of an emergency.
Foster said his personnel are making regular tours of the district to perform safety checks and offer other services, such as clearing trees left from storm damage.
"Our staff performs multiple prevention activities throughout our district. Some of these include installing smoke alarms in residences and visiting our two schools: Parkway High School and Elm Grove Elementary, for fire prevention and safety programs," he said.
"Another prevention effort that we are gearing up for is Fall Fest. Multiple organizations in our district put on some sort of event for fall. We will send an apparatus with prevention material to be handed out these events."
Foster said the department is also part of the parish’s first response in natural disasters.
"Our district is filled with multiple waterways, and part of our department’s task is responding to flooding. We are equipped with three watercrafts to handle rescues and house one of the parishes distribution points for sandbags, located at our Station #2," he said. "During severe weather like tornadoes, we handle 911 calls in addition to aiding damaged properties for search and rescue."
Foster said the requested 3.5 mills will help his department keep up with the need for increased service as the area continues to grow.
"Bossier Parish is growing and we need to be able to provide the best service possible. The people in our department are well trained and it will benefit everyone
if we're also well equipped," Foster said. "We didn't ask voters to renew a second millage that was approved in 1990 because we were prudent in our spending. But times have changed. We need the public's help to give the services we all expect."