LECOMPTE, La. (KALB) - Many Lecompte citizens filled Monday’s town council meeting voicing their frustration over their homeowners insurance rates went up.
"It was an unpleasant surprise," said Richard Piper, a Lecompte citizen who found out a few weeks ago his insurance went up. "Our insurance rates increased $500 a year which for a retirement income is a lot of money."
The rate hikes come due to an audit by the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana. They found the town's volunteer fire department to be deficient in equipment and record keeping which brought their rating from a 4 to a 10, with 10 being the worst. The fire department said they fixed the record keeping, but for the equipment, the cost will be high.
"It is going to come around a couple hundred thousand dollars total, just a ballpark figure," said Michael Hanks, Lecompte Fire Chief.
But how did the fire department slip through the cracks? The council and mayor said they've been waiting to get a list of priorities from the fire department. But Chief Hanks said that's been in the works.
"A list was turned in with the former chief and we've received a few items off of it already but it's a large list," said Hanks.
The Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office also told us it appears some tax money may have been used improperly that went to the police department instead of the fire department.
Back in 1989, a one cent sales tax was passed for maintaining garbage collection, fire protection facilities and civil defense.
“In the past, civil defense counts as the police department,” said Mayor Robert Baxter during the council meeting.
The mayor declined to speak to News Channel 5, but during the meeting he stated that they believe they interpreted the law correctly.
"We got a legal definition from it and even got it from somewhere else," said Mayor Baxter.
The DA said their report has gone to a legislative auditor, but they haven’t heard back from them yet.
Many are holding out hope that the fire department could audited again in six months, but Chief Hanks doesn't believe their rating will be where it needs to be in that time..
“It would be nearly impossible, maybe in that time it could be lowered down to a class 8 maybe," said Hanks.
The mayor appointed Amanda Rhames, a citizen with insurance experience, to head a committee to try and find out how to improve the fire department.