Tomorrow, Saturday, December 11, a number of area residents in Caddo, Bossier, DeSoto, Bienville and Nachitoches parishes will be casting votes in general elections to determine the outcome of a number of issues from bond propositions, to alcohol sales and in Bossier City, a seat on the City Council.

However, after speaking with a number of my friends from the Benton area, most were unaware they also had a special vote in a general election for the fire district.

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This only applies to those residing in Benton Fire District #4, and concerns a proposed two-mill tax increase dedicated to updating the department’s ability to provide emergency services to residents.

One of the fastest growing areas in Bossier Parish, District #4 encompasses roughly 174 square miles between Bossier City and Benton, including areas around Cypress Lake.

Public records indicate that over thirty years ago, back in 1989, when special taxing districts were formed to provide fire service, District #4 only showed a population of around 6,500. Today, the population has grown to approximately 30,000 and includes five schools from elementary to high school.

Fire Chief J.T. Wallace, says that due to the incredible growth, the district is sorely underbudgeted. According to Wallace, “We’ve got five times the population we had when the fire district was established, but our budget hasn’t grown proportionately to keep up with the demand.”

The district currently operates under a $3.8 million budget, but that figure doesn’t include any money for the purchase of equipment necessary to keep up with the growing demands for protection.

Wallace added, “Our people deserve the best protection possible and that is our goal. We simply need the tools to do the best job.”

The budget increase would help to provide the needs to which Wallace speaks including the purchase of
four new fire engines, two tanker trucks, two rescue vehicles and eight all-purpose vehicles.

Also, Wallace said a remodeling project to add living quarters at the current district fire station is needed, and personal equipment for firefighters such as self-contained breathing apparatus and bunker gear is essential.

Total cost of Wallace’s projected needs is just over $5.4 million.

Of the proposed increase, Wallace says, "This millage will generate about $375,000 annually. We will then obtain a bond to make the purchases we need, and we’ll use proceeds from the millage to make the payments."

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