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County Commission directs staff to begin Strategic Transition Plan to ensure independent fire services by July 2012



At their meeting today, Washoe County commissioners received a report from Fire Services Coordinator Kurt Latipow outlining a Strategic Transition Plan to return full authority for the administration and operations of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District to the County Commission by July 2012.

At their June 28 meeting, county commissioners (acting as the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District) voted to give notice of its termination of the Interlocal Agreement for Fire Services with the Reno Fire Department effective June 30, 2012. Per the existing contract’s terms, termination notice must be received one year prior to a termination date. The commission also directed staff to return to them on August 9 with a transition plan for an independent TMFPD.

Merged fire departments in 2000
Acting as the Truckee Meadows Fire Board, in 2000 Washoe County contracted with the City of Reno Fire Department to provide fire service in the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.

For the past two years, both the commissioners and the Joint Fire Advisory Board, comprising elected officials from both Washoe County and the city of Reno, have met to address multiple issues that impact the cost of fire operations. TMFPD currently pays $11.3 million annually to the Reno Fire Department toward the delivery of fire services for the TMFPD. Financial analysis has shown that this funding is not sustainable given on-going property tax revenue reductions in that fire district’s service territory, and will continue to result in declining ending fund balances.

Specifically, commissioners requested that the Reno Fire Department consider a change to the collective bargaining agreement to three-person minimum engine crews instead of four-person engine crews to reduce operations costs and the need to close and/or “brown out” existing fire stations; this request was declined.

Fire Services Coordinator Latipow presented four alternatives to the commission at its June 28 meeting for consideration of future fire operations. The board directed staff to pursue Alternative 3, which was the TMFPD standalone three-person engine staffing. Analysis showed that this was the only alternative that was financially sustainable for the long term. At the time, Latipow estimated the initial start-up costs to re-establish the district would be approximately $700,000.

Proposed Strategic Transition Plan
In his presentation before the commission today, Latipow noted that the county had contracted with Emergency Services Consulting International to assist with the process of developing a strategic transition plan as directed by the board.

The draft transition plan presented today described in detail the actions that are necessary to accomplish the transfer of operational responsibility, and was divided into nine functional areas: organization, capital assets and equipment, human resources, finance, risk management, legal, technology, external relationships and volunteer fire departments.

More than 35 key stakeholders, both internal and external to Washoe County government, were interviewed to determine the many tasks that would be required to complete the transition. The Strategic Transition Plan presented today reflected the results of those interviews.

Based on the interviews and draft transition plan, staff is projecting that the transitional budget will be increased to $1 million mostly attributable to earlier moving of the volunteer fleet to county locations and the potential for the need to train new hires if not all staff is transferred from Reno Fire Department as provided for in the current contract. Funding for the start-up costs would come from the fire district’s general fund savings and their capital improvement program.

Plan goals
Latipow stressed with the board that the implementation of the Strategic Transition Plan should provide for a smooth transition of service in keeping with the core goal of providing seamless and uninterrupted delivery of fire and emergency services to the community.

Board members also indicated that their long-term goal is regionalization of fire services, and they would initially pursue the merger of the Sierra Fire Protection District and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District since both districts will be under their authority effective July 2012.

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