Mayor, fire chief feel expense worth it
SCOTT — One day Scott’s mayor and its fire chief will realize their goal of staffing the Scott Volunteer Fire Department with paid firefighters all day, every day, and not rely on so many volunteers.
It would cost Scott $320,000 a year, about double what the city spends paying part-timers, but Mayor Purvis Morrison and Chief Chad Sonnier say they believe it’ll be worth the extra expense.
And it’s far less expensive than establishing a full-time firefighting force like Lafayette has.
“That would cost millions” of dollars a year, Morrison said.
“It would deplete the general fund real quick,” he said.
Instead, both men believe expanding the existing system, which works well, is a better route.
“I’d love to see it through the process,” Morrison said.
Now, during the day, Scott residents get the benefit of having Lafayette firefighters who work part-time for Scott during their days off.
At night, Scott is protected by volunteers, who arise from their beds at home when the fire bell rings or sleep in the Scott firehouse until duty calls.
Though the volunteers are unpaid, they are certified and have helped the city maintain an insurance rating of 3, better than the volunteer departments in Carencro, Youngsville, Broussard and Duson, Morrison said.
Brock Begnaud is a captain at the Scott firehouse. Like all the other part-timers, he is a full-time firefighter with the Lafayette Fire Department, where his rank is engineer.
“The majority of your fire departments in this country are made up of both volunteers and paid staff,” he said.
One of Scott’s two fire stations is a state-of-the-art facility that’s connected to the city’s Police Department. A few years ago, the combination fire-police complex was built for $3.6 million. Half of the construction expense was paid for with a state grant, the other half was borrowed by the city.
Begnaud and Sonnier said plenty of people want to be firefighters, and they’re willing to undergo training, nighttime shifts and nighttime blazes fought in winter conditions.
Begnaud said Lafayette firefighters like working part time for the volunteer department in Lafayette Parish’s smaller municipalities, especially in Scott.
Morrison and Sonnier said they were undecided about when they’d ask the City Council to budget the money for more part-timers from Lafayette. They said the change would likely come incrementally.