Caddo, Bossier working to split OHSEP into separate offices

Caddo, Bossier working to split OHSEP into separate offices

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The Caddo and Bossier of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness will be going their separate ways.

At the CB-OHSEP Executive Council's quarterly meeting in November, Parish Administrator Bill Altimus said that the Bossier Parish Police Jury had expressed a desire have a stand alone Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness for Bossier Parish. They cite the growth in the parish as the main reason for needing their own OHSEP.

"This is just one more step that bossier feels they need to take to do what they need to do on this side of the river," said Sammy Halphen, the Bossier Police Jury Director of Public Safety.

Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker and Sheriff Whittington echoed that desire, but Caddo delegation, particularly Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, expressed a desire to maintain a joint office.

"We're now going to, after 61 years move in a different direction, I'm saddened by that, I think it's unfortunate," said Glover.

After discussing the proposal to split at length, the council decided that a separation of the office would take place on July 1, 2014. Currently, Caddo and Bossier parishes are the only in the state sharing a joint office.

Now, they're in the process of working out the details.  On Friday, they voted to form committees representing both sides of the river to work on how to manage the transition over the next 6 months.

While the details are sorted out, the current joint office worried about the future. "That weighs heavy on my mind, will my people have a job come July 1st, will I even have a job?" said Davis.

Davis says it's hard not to take the split personally, "This has been an office since 1953, so in the back of my mind I'm thinking what did I do to be the catalyst for this? Though I know that's not true," said Davis.

Halphen explained the decision was anything from personal, "This has everything to do with functionality for Bossier Parish," he said.

Glover says he's still holding out hope that they'll change their minds, pointing out that the 61-year partnership has been an effective and cost-efficient.

"We recognize that you can't maintain a relationship where one entity wants to go in a different direction. We are now going to respect that and make the best out of what we think is an unfortunate situation," said Glover.

The office started out as civil defense in 1953, then decades later, the Louisiana Disaster Act of 1993 authorized the Caddo Bossier Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness Executive Council as the primary responsible party for meeting the dangers posed by disasters. A presidential order after September 11, 2001 prompted the office to change their name to the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

CB-OHSEP has responded to everything from tornados and floods winters storms and wildfires. The organization is also responsible for coordinating responses to manmade disasters, such as transportation incidents involving hazardous materials incidents and terrorist attacks.

"It's been effective, it's been cost effective, it's been effective to share personnel, it's effective to share office space and those kinds of things," said CB-OHSEP director Sandy Davis.

According to leaders, residents shouldn't see a difference in service should a disaster occur.

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