Radio agreement hammered out

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 23, 1999

HAHNVILLE – An agreement to share the costs for an 800 MHz radio communications system for St. Charles Parish was hammered out Mondaywith the Parish Council and the sheriff”s office.

The council voted unanimously to support the agreement.

Sheriff Greg Champagne pleaded for the council”s speedy agreement in which the Parish will put up a half-million dollars, the 9-1-1 Commission will chip in $250,000, the St. Charles School Board will add $200,000 andthe St. Charles Parish Hospital will contribute $40,000.In addition, the federal courts, as a result of the Shell Oil Company civil action stemming from the 1988 catalytic cracker explosion has awarded $167,500 to the system.

The sticking point came with the additional $180,000, which the parish”s nine volunteer fire departments were asked to come up with to participate in the high-band system.

Some fire departments have eagerly contributed a portion of the funds.

Sheriff Champagne said St. Rose VFD has offered to contribute more. Otherdepartments have been reluctant to make a heavy financial commitment.

Oliver Dufrene, chief of the Paradis VFD, and Alan Holder, chief of the East St. Charles VFD, asked the council to delay action on the agreement untilthe various departments could settle out who will pay how much.

“We want to continue negotiations,” Holder said.

“We’ve been promised a lot of things, but we’ve seen nothing in writing,” Dufrene agreed.

“The last thing we ever wanted to do was to get at odds with the fire departments,” Champagne said. “Two of the departments are just asdesperate to get on the system as I am.”Maj. Sam Zinna, of the sheriff”s office and the 9-1-1 Commission, saidMotorola could only hold the price until June 30. The council’s nextmeeting is not until July 5.

Champagne added, “We’ve already had close calls. It’s now life and deathfor us.”He recalled later how the shooting in St. Rose, where two deputies shotand killed an armed and intoxicated man in a trailer, could have ended in further tragedy.

“The first deputy on the scene radioed four times that the man was armed,” Champagne said. “The second deputy never heard the messages. Hemight have walked in and gotten shot.”Champagne stressed that the agreement before the council only affected the parish government and the sheriff’s office. The fire departments couldcome in later, but this would allow the radio system to be purchased right away and installed in a few months.

He gave his word he would treat the departments fairly in negotiating their contributions.

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