Webster Parish fire departments to face new 911 fees
WEBSTER PARISH, La. (KSLA) — Webster Parish fire departments soon will have to pay an annual fee of $5,000 in order to continue getting dispatch service through Webster Parish E-911 Communications.
With this new fee, fire departments can opt out and use their own dispatch services; however, those that do not use the service will likely have longer response times and cost their residents higher insurance rates.
“I understand the fire departments not having money to pay for it,” said Minden Fire Chief Kip Mourad, who is a former E-911 board member. He also noted that most of the fire stations in the parish are run by volunteers.
On the other hand, he said he understands the need for the money, which will go toward new equipment for dispatch and help with training.
“Our communications center handles emergency and non-emergency calls from within Webster Parish. In 2019, our center processed 39,262 calls. We dispatch for 13 different fire departments throughout our parish and relay calls to two EMS companies and multiple law enforcement agencies daily,” according to the E-911 Communications website.
Property Insurance Association of Louisiana evaluates each fire department throughout the state every five years, rating them on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being the best score).
“If they don’t use it, then they won’t get the points for 911,” Mourad said.
When we asked if higher scores would cause insurance rates to go up, Mourad said yes.
If fire departments cannot afford, or do not want to pay the fees, then 911 will still answer the call. Instead of immediately dispatching fire crews themselves, the dispatcher would have to call the town’s fire department first, so that the department could send someone out.
In Webster Parish, Mourad explained, the police departments used a separate dispatch service. The E-911 dispatch is used for the fire departments and it “keeps up with” the ambulance times.
The ambulance companies, however, are not being charged these additional fees, according to Mourad.
In a letter to the fire stations, the 911 board said, “This is a very hard thing that 911 has discussed for over two years and it is the only option our agency has to continue to provide the service”.
The board also said in the letter that it plans to re-evaluate the fees at the start of each year and hopes to lower them over time with voter-approved millages.
A meeting to further discuss the fees is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 1.
Below is the board’s letter to the fire departments:
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