By T. Scott Boatright
Thursday night’s monthly Grambling City Council had somewhat of a “Tale of Two Cities” feel to it.
But instead of it being “the best of times, the worst of times,” it was much more of a “taking some needed good news mixed with a little bad news” type of situation.
The good news came from both city water engineering consultant Henry Shuler of Shuler Consulting Company and city fire chief Tommie Woods.
But both threw in a touch of bad with the good news they brought.
Shuler told Grambling’s aldermen that the city will receive $1 million in block grant funding and that the city will only be required to match $48,000.
He then upped his good news ante by telling the Council that the Department of Environmental Quality is awarding the city an additional $847,000 in sewer system renovation funding, with $547,000 of that coming in the form of a forgivable loan.
Woods followed up that news by telling the Council members that the city had received an unexpected fire rate of 8, which was feared would be worse.
“Our prayers worked … prayers do work — we received an 8,” Wood said to start his report as Council members burst into applause. “That’s something to be excited about. We were headed in the wrong direction.
“This is the first time I’ve dealt with a rating. I helped in Ruston as an assistant chief, but I didn’t get as deep into it as I did this time. And I did tell the mayor this afternoon that we can make an appeal to see if we can get some extra points. And I stressed to him that we have 30 days to file an appeal.”
Grambling received 24.17 rating points from the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana (PIAL) with a Class 8 rating being between 20.00 to 29.99 points.
That means Grambling needs 5.43 additional points to move up to a Class 7 PIAL fire rating. A maximum of points of credit are based partly on Communications categories including Emergency Reporting – Call Receipt & Processing; Telecommunicators – Training, Certification, Emergency Dispatch Protocols, Continuing Education and Quality Assurance; and Dispatch Circuits – Dispatch Circuits, Monitoring for Integrity, Emergency Power.
A maximum of 50 rating points fall under Fire Department categories while an additional 40 points fall under Water Supply categories. An additional 5.5 of the 105.5 maximum points are based on the category of Community Risk Reduction.
Woods told the Council that Grambling was previously rated as a Class 7 city (and a Class 6 in 2012) and that the city must present a written plan on how it intends to retain that Class 7 rating and the time frame it will take to complete each improvement, and that if the needed number of points for a Class 7 rating couldn’t be met there would be no need to apply for an appeal.
“I talked to (Mayor Edward Jones) this afternoon and informed him that there would not be any changes of points having to deal with training, testing of fire hydrants, testing of fire trucks – none of that will happen,” Woods said. “The (allowed) changes would be purchases – equipment purchases.”
Woods went on to say that he informed the mayor that the city needs a ladder truck.
“I understand it might be $1 million, I understand that,” Woods said. “But it’s about liability, because if something happens at (Grambling State University) at one of the buildings that are more than two stories tall, we’re going to be liable (for well more than $1 million). So we have to find a way to try to get us a ladder truck.”
Woods told the Council that he now has a personal stake in the PIAL rating.
“I am now a city of Grambling resident – I just bought a house here yesterday,” Woods said. “I’m a citizen, and I’m concerned. I know Grambling has great potential … but we have to get up and do the work. We are not ready for hotels or businesses to come here. Personnel, equipment – we’ve got to have it.
“If something happens at that university, and someone gets hurt or worse because we don’t have a ladder truck, there will be a lawsuit.”
As far as the water/sewer funding, Shuler urged the Council to carefully consider what the money will go toward.
“This is probably a gift you’ll never get again,” Shuler said, referring to the unexpected additional DEQ funding. “The city’s infrastructure has issues — we know that. I’ve desperately looked for infrastructure money and I beg you to take this — it’s almost $2 million from two different (sources) — stay the course with what it’s already been asked for, but please put the rest of it toward infrastructure.”
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