Newell: Jefferson Parish millage renewals essential to continued operation of fire protection, sanitation services

Cynthia Lee Sheng

 

Election season is drawing near, and with it, some very important millage renewal votes to be had in Jefferson Parish. To better understand what voters should be considering in the booth, Newell invited Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, Department of Environmental Affairs Assistant Director Katherine Costanza and East Bank Consolidated Fire Department Fire Chief Dave Tibbetts onto the program Tuesday morning.

“Cynthia, can give us the backdrop as it relates to these all-too-important millage renewal votes?” Newell began.

“Our election is August 15th, with early voting July 25th to August 8th,” Lee Sheng answered. “And we want to stress that these are renewals, these are not new taxes. These are critical infrastructure services, our fire service, and solid waste disposal. All the polling locations that had senior centers or activities will suspend those activities so we can make sure the polling locations are cleaned, and we will do it the safest way possible. It’s not only for the millages but the potential sale of East Jefferson General Hospital to LCMC, which is very important for the voters to look at.”“I’ve served on that board in excess of 20 years,” Newell said. “A standalone hospital is in a very difficult position to be able to succeed against much larger systems because the new model is all about population management. It’s hard to garner the numbers necessary to yield positive financial results!”“Exactly,” Lee Sheng said. “When the hospital was created we were limited to a geographic area that we could serve, and that’s also made it very difficult for us to compete. For many reasons, we want to become part of a larger network, and LCMC is that network. That’s what we’re asking the voters to consider.”

“Let’s go to the Fire Chief,” Newell continued. “Tell us exactly what this millage provides revenue for.”“The millage that we’re asking for with this renewal covers 90% of our operating funds,” Tibbetts said. “It’s the whole thing, really, to say the least… it’s 25 mills and that proposal works on acquiring, constructing, improving, and providing a Class 1-rated fire department for the residents of our area. That number 1 rating is what the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana looks at - it reduces those insurance premiums.”“At the present time, first responders across the country have had a difficult time recruiting and maintaining forces,” Newell said. “Fire is a little bit of a different situation. Has the pandemic caused operational problems or concerns for you? From a staffing perspective, are you at capacity, or do you have openings?”“We’re at capacity right now. We’re in and out a little bit with COVID testings, but as a whole, we are solid right now. We have a great group of people… in 2019 we had about 5,167 requests for service and serviced over 142,000 people, so keeping the ranks full is important.”“To Katherine - no faster way to get the ire of the public than to miss a day of garbage collection, right?” Newell asked.