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Commissioners discuss options for a regional fire service



Options for a financially sustainable regional fire service were considered by the Washoe County Commissioners today, acting as the Board of Fire Commissioners for the Truckee Meadows and Sierra Fire Protection Districts.

The Board directed Sierra Fire Chief Charlie Moore in a 4 to 1 vote (Jung dissenting) to continue discussions with the city of Reno and other interested entities to draft a joint powers agreement for fire service that would include the ability to have separate union agreements under the responsibility of each jurisdiction as an interim step (Alternative 3 below) toward a long-term regional fire service.

The motion provided additional direction for the discussions with the city of Reno that will continue at a scheduled joint meeting April 19, including sustaining automatic aid at its current level and ensuring that the operating agreement is financially sustainable for the districts. While Alternative 3 (below) is considered as a short-term solution during the discussion, the ultimate goal is creating a sustainable regional fire district (Alternative 4 below).

During the discussion of termination of the current interlocal agreement for fire service with Reno City Council members at the April 2 joint meeting, the Board of Fire Commissioners directed staff to continue efforts for the standup of the consolidated TM/SF District on July 1, 2012, and to discuss with the board the expected structure of a possible joint powers authority and agreement with willing participants, and alternatives.

The board voted to continue the work of consolidating the TM and SF Districts as a sustainable framework for the future of regional fire service. The board gave notice of the termination of the current interlocal agreement on June 28, 2011, due to the unsustainable costs of the agreement and the need to balance the cost of operations within the available current and future revenues of the districts.

Together the separately funded districts have lost 25 percent of their revenues during the economic recession, and though savings occurred in the past, those savings are no longer sufficient to fully fund the districts’ obligations due to the increased cost of the contract and the decline in revenues.

Commissioner John Breternitz said, “Long term regionalization depends on relationships, and these discussions are important for our future collaborative efforts. This is an important conversation to prepare for next week’s discussion with the city of Reno.”

During today’s meeting, Moore provided examples of regional fire services and JPA alternatives and received direction on three of the four alternative including:

Alternative 1: Working Group (not a full JPA)
Establish a working group of senior fire professionals and management who are tasked with looking for ways to gain more efficiency through shared programs within each operation, such as combined training or fire prevention programs.

Alternative 3: JPA Under One Governance
The JPA is initially established to coordinate regional service through best practice response protocols and unified administration and management but through parallel and separate operations, budgets and labor agreements.

Alternative 4: Regional Fire District
Establish one regional fire district that delegates authority for decisions on service levels, finance, labor agreements and governance to one Fire District Board.

The board also reviewed but did not support Alternative 2, which was a consolidated joint powers authority under one governance structure and with one union contract.

Moore said that “as options for regional fire service delivery are contemplated, it is essential that we place service to the public above all else, and that paramount to the considerations are financial sustainability and levels of service.” Moore added, “I have spoken with many of the volunteer fire chiefs and firefighters, and I am encouraged that there is a new and invigorated esprit de corps that will come out of the startup of the consolidated districts.”

The entire document with the regional fire service/JPA alternatives can be found at:

The next special joint meeting between Reno City Council and the Washoe County Commission, acting as the Board of Fire Commissioners for the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and the Sierra Fire Protection District, is on April 19, at 2:30 p.m. in the Board of County Commission Chambers.

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