Alsen residents seek action by Metro Council
About a dozen members of the Alsen community, upset over the high rates they have to pay for fire insurance, attended Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting planning to urge the council to replace all members of the board that oversees their volunteer fire department.
But they weren’t given an opportunity to speak to the council on the board appointments, and left the meeting voicing frustration that more isn’t being done to address the fire department’s dismal fire rating that has caused their fire insurance rates to skyrocket.
In August 2011, the Alsen/St. Irma Lee Volunteer Fire Department’s rating dropped from a Class 5 to a Class 10, the lowest possible rating. The rating by the Louisiana Property Insurance Rating Association affects the insurance premiums homeowners and businesses pay.
The council followed the recommendations of Councilman Ulysses “Bones” Addison, who represents the area, and reappointed three sitting members of the volunteer fire department’s board and two new members.
Alsen residents who attended the meeting said afterward they had hoped all five volunteer members would be replaced with new people.
The Alsen community members were not able to speak at the meeting, and after the meeting complained to some council members, Trae Welch, Ronnie Edwards and C. Denise Marcelle. Addison left immediately after the meeting.
“Our rating has dropped from a five to a 10,” said Moses Evans. “If this happened in any other area in Baton Rouge, they’d declare a city emergency.”
Evans said Addison would not return their calls to discuss the fire department’s rating and their concerns about the board.
“Bones is a termed-out councilman, he won’t return our calls,” Evans said. “He’s playing with our lives.”
He said community members reached out to all 12 council members asking them to replace the Alsen fire department board.
Edwards told the group after the meeting that council members deferred to Addison because they thought he’d met with the community members.
Addison said in a phone call that he didn’t think it would be wise to replace all of the board members at the same time because the fire department’s rating was being appealed early next year, and he wanted to keep some level of continuity. He said he has been working nonstop with the interim fire chiefs, the fire board and other parish fire departments to ensure the rating appeals process goes smoothly.
Welch told the residents he would put an item on the agenda to ensure the Metro Council discusses the Alsen fire district rating at its next meeting.
In other business, the Metro Council approved an ordinance requiring door-to-door salesmen to obtain a $5 permit that would identify them as legitimate salesmen.
John Berry, who represented the Southdowns neighborhood watch, said his neighborhood asked Councilman Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois for help addressing the salesmen, who are often persistent to the “point of intimidation.”
Berry said it’s impossible to know whether these salesmen are actually criminals, “looking for houses to burglarize and valuable items to steal.”
But Berry said Bourgeois’s ordinance change did not go far enough, and should have banned all unwanted solicitation.
Joseph Scott, assistant parish attorney, said they could not entirely ban door-to-door solicitations.
Some council members said they were concerned the ordinance change was unnecessary because residents can put “No Soliciting” signs up, and violators would be charged with trespassing.
The council passed the item 7-3, with Welch, Scott Wilson and Joel Boé voting against the item. Addison, Edwards, Marcelle, Mike Walker, Tara Wicker, Alison Gary and Bourgeois voted in favor. Chandler Loupe and Donna Collins-Lewis were absent.
The ordinance will not impact those with political, religious or charitable purposes.