by vic couvillion
Special to The Advocate
July 24, 2012
AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council, sitting as commissioners of the Tangipahoa Parish Rural Fire Protection District No. 2, voted unanimously Monday to hire a full-time fire administrator to oversee the volunteer fire departments in both incorporated and unincorporated areas.
The vote came after a lengthy and sometimes-contentious exchange between council members and chiefs and firefighters who serve on the 13 rural fire departments that fall under the responsibility of the Parish Council.
Bruce Cutrer, chief of Tangipahoa Parish Fire District No. 1, unsuccessfully asked the council to adopt an alternative plan to the hiring of an administrator and said the proposal had the unanimous approval of 10 parish fire chiefs.
That plan, Cutrer explained, would call for an advisory committee composed of three fire chiefs and a member of the Rural Fire District No. 2 Board, which is the Parish Council. It would also require the hiring of a full-time office person to consolidate the duties of the secretary and treasurer.
Cutrer’s proposal stated that this committee would serve without compensation and would assume the responsibilities as described in the fire administrator’s job description as proposed by the council.
Several council members told Cutrer and the chiefs and firemen gathered, that only a full-time administrator could address concerns that the council has held over some administrative shortcomings encountered by the rural fire departments.
Councilman Carlo Bruno at one point told the group that the council should have acted “five or ten years ago” to assure that proper business practices were being followed by the departments and that they were better stewards of “the people’s money.”
Councilman Nicky Muscarello, who chairs Rural Fire Protection District No. 2, repeatedly assured the firefighters the council was not trying to tell the departments how to do their jobs.
Rather, he said, the fire administrator would assure the departments followed proper accounting practices and submitted proper annual audits as called for by Louisiana law.
At the request of Paul Collura of the Hammond Rural Fire Department, the council did agree to take out one part of the fire administrator’s job description, and that being that the person must have three years of experience as a fire chief to be fire administrator.