By Carolyn Roy
Fire Chief John Wynn said in an interview Monday morning that he wants voters to know that the 10 mill public safety tax on the ballot Saturday, March 24 is dedicated for use only by the Natchitoches Fire Dept. “It would be so detrimental to our department should it not pass,” Wynn said. The tax will fund salaries of one-third of the 45 employees that includes 14 firemen per shift and three administrative positions. It also funds training, tools and equipment and fire apparatus; upkeep and maintenance of three stations including the main station on Second Street and those on East Fifth and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; and the fire training center at the Natchitoches Technical College campus.
It also helps offset fuel costs. “We do more than fight fires,” Wynn said in describing emergency response. The department has procedures for high angle, confined spaces and diving rescues and has a hazmat team. Fire department employees visit schools to deliver safety information; conduct a fire prevention plan with the State Fire Marshal’s Office to inspect and install smoke detectors; and visit businesses for annual inspections and development of pre-fire planning.
The tax also pays for uniforms and capital improvements, with the most recent being the refurbishing of Station #3 on MLK Drive. During 2017, the department answered 2,200 calls and so far this year has answered 450 calls. There are three front line engines, one reserve engine, one aerial engine and one rescue vehicle. The renewal tax generates just over $1.3 million annually.
All city precincts plus Cypress and Oak Grove will vote on the tax renewal. “Of course, Natchez has a mayor’s and aldermen election,” said Clerk of Court David Stamey. “Basically it’s all Ward One plus 4-1 and 4-2 who will cast ballots Saturday.”