Lafayette adjusts budget to cover fire station costs

The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday approved shifting money in this year’s budget to cover an additional $367,475 for a new fire station that officials say is needed to serve the growing city and keep down homeowners’ insurance rates.

The council voted unanimously to pull the money from various areas of the budget to fund what’s now estimated to be about a $1.7 million project.

Fire Station No. 14 is planned for a site on Curran Lane off Ambassador Caffery Parkway.

It is one of two new stations that Fire Chief Robert Benoit has said are needed to help Lafayette maintain its current fire insurance rating of two.

The chief has said the industry group that sets fire insurance ratings has recommended two new stations and that not following that recommendation could result in a ratings drop that could increase homeowners’ insurance rates in the city by an average of 9 percent.

With only one new station, Lafayette still would be short of the goal set by Benoit, but “it means we are moving in the right direction,” City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said.

Fire Station No. 14 is now in the design phase, and no date has been set for construction.

There are tentative plans for a second new station, Fire Station No. 15, but the main stumbling block has been finding the money to cover the annual expense of bringing on additional firefighters to staff it.

The federal government last year awarded Lafayette a $1.67 million grant to pay 20 new firefighters for the next two years, which will help temporarily cover staffing costs for Fire Station No. 14.

“Fifteen is a priority, but we are certainly not in a position to recommend construction of a station we cannot staff,” Stanley said.

City-Parish Councilman Jay Castille last year pushed for a new half-cent public safety sales tax.

The proposed sales tax would have replaced two existing fire and police property taxes and netted an estimated annual revenue increase of about $10 million to cover additional firefighters and other public safety needs.

However, the proposal never gained traction.

City-Parish President Joey Durel this year announced plans for the committee to explore public safety and other financial needs of local government, but no specific proposals have emerged.