Commissioners combine fire agencies

WASHOE COUNTY NEWS RELEASE

In a vote of 4 to 1 (Commissioner Jung dissenting), Washoe County Commissioners acting as the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and Sierra Fire Protection District today voted to administratively and operationally consolidate two fire agencies services under an interlocal agreement to keep nine fire stations open, maximize resources and progress toward regionalization of fire services in our community.

This decision was made possible with the dissolution of an active agreement with the city of Reno to operate Truckee Meadows Fire on June 24. The contract with the city was deemed financially unsustainable in this current fiscal climate.

Five distinct operating alternatives for Truckee Meadows Fire were prepared for the commission by staff. The alternatives included possible options for jointly providing service with Sierra Fire Protection District, based on previous board direction to look for opportunities to regionalize fire service and maximize available resources.

The commission chose to jointly provide fire service for Truckee Meadows Fire and Sierra Fire Protection District under an interlocal agreement, keeping in mind the ultimate goal of merging the two districts at a future time and allowing for other fire services to join as they choose. Under this agreement, the region will maintain the current fire stations between the two fire agencies with flexible staffing allowing three-person minimum engine crews and two-person rescue units.

In addition, as finances permit, the seasonal fire crews will return for both agencies. Paramedic service will be maintained in the Sierra Fire Protection District service area, and the property tax allotment for both districts will remain the same for the present time.

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The decision provides for the long-term financial sustainability for both agencies, with a projected annual surplus through fiscal year 2014-2015 and beyond.

The Board of Fire Commissioners also asked staff to continue to reach out to neighboring jurisdictions, including the city of Reno, to negotiate automatic aid, mutual aid and other agreements that are in the best interest of all citizens of Washoe County.

Acting as the Truckee Meadows Fire Board, Washoe County commissioners took action in 2000 to contract with the city of Reno Fire Department to provide fire service in the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. During the most recent 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.

Washoe County currently pays $11.3 million annually to the Reno Fire Department toward the delivery of fire services for the TMFPD. While the district has saved approximately $13 million as a result of the 10-year agreement between TMFPD and RD, maintaining the contract is not sustainable given on-going property tax revenue reductions in that fire district’s service territory and increasing labor costs, and will continue to result in declining end fund balances.

The projected deficit in the 2014-2015 budget year for Truckee Meadows Fire under the City of Reno agreement was $1,773,442. Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District will resume operations as a re-organized district under the Board of Fire Commissioners beginning July 1, 2012. For more information on the process to re-organize the Truckee Meadows Fire operation under the Board of Fire Commissioners, visit http://www.washoecounty.us/mgrsoff/TMFire.html.

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