City, County Settle Fire Services Lawsuit (video)

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City and county officials hold press conference over fires services lawsuit settlement.
City and county officials hold press conference over fires services lawsuit settlement. Image: Carla O’Day.

By Carla O’Day

A lawsuit involving the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and City of Reno, which includes unpaid workers compensation and costs associated with operating fire stations and equipment, has been settled.

In its capacity as the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners approved the settlement Tuesday, and the City Council approved it Wednesday. Terms state the district must pay the city $408,917 in withheld workers compensation and an additional $38,612 in interest by Feb. 29. Each party is bearing its own legal fees.

Kitty JungWashoe County Commission Chairwoman Kitty Jung called the lawsuit an “outstanding thorn.”

“This is a giant step going forward as a region,” she said.

Commissioners and Reno City Council members made their way to the city hall lobby today to celebrate after the council approved the settlement. They acknowledged going to trial wouldn’t have been the best use of taxpayer money.

“Would we have prevailed? Yes, but at what cost?” Reno Councilman David Bobzien said.

Reno Fire Chief David Cochran said he welcomes the opportunity to move on and that a lawsuit isn’t the most productive way to spend time.

david cochran“At the end of the day, the firefighters want people to understand they do this job because they love it and their goal is to provide services,” Cochran said.

District Deputy Chief Tim Leighton said firefighters didn’t get caught up in the political fight.

“They know what’s going on, but they were looking to our leaders to solve it,” Leighton said.

A consolidation agreement between Reno and the district for fire and emergency services became effective July 2000. The district issued Reno a notice in 2011 saying the consolidation would cease June 30, 2012. It then took control of the fire stations formerly operated by the city.

The city sued the district in September 2014, seeking workers compensation payouts it claimed the district withheld. The lawsuit also said the district owed the city for an increase in indirect costs between 2009-2012.

Counterclaims filed by the district against the city in July 2015 said Reno breached the interlocal agreement and was negligent when operating and maintaining the district’s property. The district indicated it withheld workers compensation payouts to offset those claims.

Reno is releasing initial claims of $851,826 and the district is releasing its original claims of $1.4 million.

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Carla O'Day
About Carla O'Day 285 Articles

Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.