BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There has been a plan to build a new fire station in a growing area of Baton Rouge since 2008. However, when the East Baton Rouge Metro Council was presented with the option of approving the land, located next to Mike Anderson's on Lee Drive, it got entangled in another controversy.
"If you approve to start the temporary station, Rescue 93 is going to shut down," Shane Spillman, president of the firefighters' union, told the council.
In order to man the new fire station, Fire Chief Ed Smith plans to use staff from one of the department's two emergency rescue trucks. That means the rescue truck, while still available for use, would not be manned full time. In exchange, the chief said he will add emergency equipment, like the Jaws of Life, to nine other department trucks.
Smith told the council that finding the staff within his department saves money, and that's something he said city leaders requested years ago when budgets were tight.
However the firefighters' union believes, the trade isn't enough to protect residents.
"We feel the tools that they're putting on these other trucks that we're talking about are great tools. We also feel like the rescue truck should be put on this," said Spillman.
Smith said the new fire station is vital to public safety as well, and delaying it could impact the department's fire rating.
"We're looking for a way to better serve Baton Rouge and make sure the citizens of Baton Rouge are protected," said Smith.
As the heated discussion over staffing and equipment played out before the Metro Council, the Chief and the Union agreed on one point: if there was more money in the Department's budget, they could man both the new station and the rescue truck.
Council members put off the issue for 30 days to allow time to address the funding and staffing.
"I don't like the idea of holding up the fire station, but I want to get the budget part of this to make sure they've got enough to keep the heavy fire truck and man the station," said Councilman Trae Welch.