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Sheriff’s Office, fire department team up for West Bank complex

WALLACE — West Bank residents will soon see improvement in emergency response capabilities with the construction of a substation in Wallace, a collaborative effort between the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office and St. John Office of Fire Services.

According to Sheriff Mike Tregre, the Sheriff’s Office has operated out of a very small office in the Edgard Courthouse for years, leaving no room for equipment storage or manpower on the West Bank.

“Right now, we have no footprint on the West Bank,” Tregre said. “That cannot continue to happen. The West Bank and the East Bank should have the same capabilities because any emergency that happens can happen on either side.”

The 5,933 square foot substation will house four wheelers, boats and other emergency response vehicles on River Road at the base of the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Tregre said boat rescue equipment is important to serving Pleasure Bend and other water-based communities.

For the Office of Fire Services, the substation presents a path toward expansion.

Cain Dufrene, chief of operations, said the tin fire station on River Road on the West Bank has garage doors too small for modern fire trucks.

“We have an older, smaller station there currently that doesn’t house some of the newer equipment that we have,” Dufrene said. “It will allow us to put some of the up-to-date fire trucks we have and give us room to grow in that location.”

The substation will be three times larger than the current firehouse, according to Dufrene, presenting space for Fire Services to house personnel during a weather emergency.

The building design phase is wrapping up in the next month or two, Dufrene said. The project will go out to bid soon after, and construction time is estimated at 12 months.

“Hopefully, by the end of next year, it will be completed,” Dufrene said. “We’re excited because this project is the first of its kind as a joint use between the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department. We thought we would save taxpayers money by operating under one roof.”

Funding for the $1.8 million construction project is split evenly between Sheriff’s Office and Fire Services budgets, according to Dufrene.

Tregre said community support would propel the project toward a timely completion.

“I don’t anticipate any unforeseen problems,” Tregre said. “It’s pretty clear that the public wants it, the Council wants it and the Parish President wants it, so let’s get this done.”

The substation will also serve as a voting location, introducing spacious, air-conditioned surroundings lacking in the previous fire station voting venue, Tregre said.