Reno City Council members on Wednesday approved an agreement between the Reno-Tahoe International Airport Fire Department and the city of Reno for the city to provide dispatch and communication services. The agreement is to be billed annually with a year one billing projection of $97,382.
The agreement would allow city staff to provide dispatch communication services directly to the airport fire department. It is expected the agreement will reduce service delays.
Council member Jenny Brekhus asked Public Safety Dispatch Manager Cody Shadle if the department could handle the additional workload. He said that they could.
Brekhus then said dispatch is “broken in many ways” and that she was concerned about the department taking on more work since they are experiencing vacancies. She said she would not support the request.
“This is something we’ve looked at for years, and I want to commend the airport for being a fantastic partner,” said Mayor Hillary Schieve. “It needed to happen because the way in which they were dispatched. It goes through a really bizarre system and is super dangerous.”
Schieve asked Shadle to explain why he is the expert and why this is the best option for dispatch.
He stated that dispatch is more than prepared to take on the minimal additional workload.
“As it stands now [the airport] operates less than one call a day,” Shadle said. “As opposed to the fire department, which has upwards of 40,000 calls per year. One call a day is something we can do very minimally. By doing this, we can eliminate delays and extraneous call routing. We’re eliminating extra workload.”
Council member Naomi Duerr said she experienced an emergency at the airport on a plane and needed paramedics to respond.
“Thinking about how it all happened, the pilots had to call the operator of the airport, who had to route the call to dispatch, who had to call paramedics to the airport, it was crazy. I’m extremely happy to see this,” she said. “It will provide a better service to the people who travel through the airport. Traveling through an airport is very stressful.”
Brekhus then said that she was “warming up to” the idea following Shadle’s explanation that the calls would only amount to less than one a day, and that she didn’t realize he had been with the department for 14 years.
“But I am very troubled for how we’re operating dispatch at this time,” Brekhus added.
The motion carried unanimously.
Paradise Park playground to receive new equipment
Council chose between two options for the new Paradise Park playground theme to purchase equipment to update the park: an aquatic theme or a nature one.
In June, the Paradise Park playground was prioritized to undergo a refresh. The current playground was installed in the ‘90s, with an addition in the 2000s, and much of it is past its useful life, according to Jaime Schroeder of Parks and Recreation.
“It pleases me to be able to put something of this magnitude in this neighborhood,” Schroeder said.
The aquatics theme equipment includes an aqua-blue color scheme and framework, along with bubble-shaped equipment and a zipline.
It was the lower priced of the two options at just over $393,000 – more than $100,000 less than the nature option. The aquatics playground is also far more ADA accessible, with 89% of the playground ADA accessible, as opposed to the nature-themed course at 54%.
When put to a vote in the community, the nature-themed playground received the most votes – 262 vs. 209 for the aquatics playground.
City staff, however, recommended the aquatics-themed option so that they might take the $100,000 left over and put it into other areas of the project, such as additional shade, which the public has stated is a priority for all parks across the city. Many parents have asked for shaded benches in addition to other shade areas, Schroeder said.
Council member Delgado said he grew up just down the street from Paradise Park and was thrilled to see a new playground coming.
“This is awesome,” he said. “I don’t think you guys realize how important it is. This is such a treasure in this community, and it broke my heart to see the dilapidated playground equipment. The [decrease in] usage was dramatic, because the playground equipment wasn’t there. This is a huge opportunity.”
Election of vice mayor leads to rehash of dress code issues
Devon Reese was elected as vice mayor of the City Council.
Council member Brekhus said she would not be supporting Reese for the role.
“I remember all too well in May when [public commenter] Gerry Misfud, and the moment when he was told that he had to come here and wear different clothes, his clothing was inappropriate, and then he was escorted by police out of the building,” Brekhus said.
“I thought that was a tenor and an activity that did not represent well on this body by [Reese] and his presiding role,” she added. “I would prefer to see him chair, maybe, one of our subcommittees, but not at this time act in your absence in the next several months. That was a learning experience, and frankly I haven’t seen any apologies to the body, because it reflected poorly on the body, it was out of line and I continue to be troubled by it.”
Mayor Schieve said she wanted to discuss the topic more at length.
“It was never talked about, it was never in the media,” Schieve said. “When I called to find out the full background of the situation, I learned that the full story was not told.”
Schieve defended Reese’s behavior. She said Misfud had made women in city hall “uncomfortable” by the way he was dressed.
“When Mr. Misfud came to council, he had made a couple women feel uncomfortable by the way he was dressed because of his shirt,” she continued. “At city hall, we are doing our best to address how women feel – we think it’s important.
“I think Councilman Reese was trying to be sensitive to the needs of the women who felt uncomfortable at the time. I don’t think it was anything to go after Gerry in any way; I think it was to address the needs of women who felt uncomfortable at the time when he walked into the building.”
Despite legal counsel’s attempts to stop Schieve during her explanation, presumably because the topic was not on the agenda, she continued saying it was important to “get the truth out there.”
“This whole thing got spun up in the media, and this is what I had heard and I asked and it was confirmed,” she said. “I wanted people to know this wasn’t someone gunning for Mr. Misfud. It was trying to make women feel comfortable. Women in the workplace need to be recognized.”
Reese, after the May incident, posted on Twitter a meme of actor James Gandolfini from The Sopranos, in a Kimono shirt with his chest exposed, and said Misfud was “lecherous” and “hyper-sexualized” city staff.
He was accepted as vice mayor.
City to adjust salaries before replacing police chief
Police Chief Jason Soto in April announced his intention to retire in January 2023 after more than 25 years with the Reno Police Department.
Following that notice, the city decided to review the compensation for the position in preparation for recruiting a new chief.
During public comment, many residents showed support for Oliver Miller, who serves as the deputy chief of police.
Many of those who commented said Miller is qualified, has deep roots within the community and is the best choice for the department going forward.
Ralph Andersen & Associates was selected to lead the national search for the next chief.
Salaries have been adjusted “in an effort to remedy the market competitiveness,” according to city staff.
The new proposed base salary for the position is $208,492, with a maximum base salary of $260,624.
The same adjustment is suggested for the fire chief, while the chief of staff and assistant city manager salaries were adjusted to a range of $229,863 through $287,331. A salary adjustment has also been proposed for the office of chief finance officer, with a range from $189,109 to $236,392.
Council member Brekhus said she did not support an increase of over 25% in one year without a classic compensation study.
“It is very problematic to me,” she said.
“We live in a difficult employment era,” Reese said. “My understanding is that, at this time in this country, 44% of all employees are currently seeking jobs. We have people who are talking about the great resignation. We’re dealing with issues across all segments of society, where wages and inflation are impacting everyone’s lives.”
The salary adjustment was approved with Brekhus opposed.
Parks and Recreation master plan updates
The city’s parks and recreation department is updating its 2008 recreation facilities plan to create a more “robust” parks and open space master plan, and approved $152,000 to contract with a consulting firm to assist in those updates.
The plan will identify current and planned park and recreation facilities, along with a funding strategy for construction and operation of the facilities over the next 20 years.
To complete the update, city staff said an analysis is needed to provide an assessment and evaluation of needs, location and financial viability of recreational facilities.
The top community vision identified by the public through surveys and workshops was to make Reno a base for outdoor activities.
Duerr stated she would like to see additional one-on-one meetings with the department, and would like to see a potential park all around the Truckee River from Rock Creek Park to Idlewild Park and beyond.
Zoning changes approved
The council voted to change a zoning map from single-family residential (11 units per acre) to multi-family residential (14 units per acre) at a 33-acre site located west of the roundabout between Ferrari McLeod Boulevard and Remington Park Drive.
The site currently has a master plan land use designation of mixed neighborhood.
According to the staff report, the proposed zoning would serve as a transition from the lower intensity single-family property to the east and south of the site, to the higher intensity industrial to the north and west of the site.
On Aug. 3, the planning commission heard a presentation from staff stating that the proposed zoning is compatible with the area, and consistent with the master plan.
The council viewed a short presentation from city staff, who recommended the change.
Community court programs
Council heard a presentation about the Reno Municipal Court’s Community Court, held Wednesdays at 8 a.m. at the Washoe County Library, which is held to benefit the unsheltered population of Reno.
Judge Christopher Hazlett-Stevens of Reno Municipal Court, who also presides over the community court, hosted the presentation.
The court serves as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system by having a problem-solving approach to meet the needs of the unsheltered population – instead of jail time for those committing quality-of-life offenses.
Those offenses can be things as minor as possession of an open bottle of alcohol in public, remaining in parks after hours, urinating in public and trespassing.
“These are the crimes that, in a traditional criminal justice system, the police would cite this individual, send them to a traditional court house, or arrest this person and send them to jail,” Hazlett-Stevens said. “The judge would see that person in jail a few days later, that person would be given a credit for time served, and released, and nothing will have changed for that person’s life.”
More likely than not, he added, the person will reoffend, starting the cycle over again, and those in the court system were confounded with how to end the cycle.
Some judges, Hazlett-Stevens said, determined they would set higher sentences as a way to deter individuals from reoffending, sentencing offenders to 30 or 60 days for their crimes.
“Of course, that did no good,” he added. “Because again, you’re releasing them back into the situation they were in before, and you’ve changed nothing for that individual. You provided no structure, no housing, no access to substance abuse or behavioral health counseling.”
Hazlett-Stevens stated that the answer is Reno Community Court.
“Community court is an entirely different process,” he said. “Instead of citing a person into the traditional court system or taking them to jail, they’re actually cited to the library, the next Wednesday following their citation.”
Once at community court, assessments are begun on the individuals to determine what their risks and needs are. After those needs and risks are assessed, a case plan is developed for the individual and structured into a sentence.
“It’s not just providers working in their own silos,” said Hazlett-Stevens.
Community court also holds events such as affordable housing workshops, job fairs and vaccination clinics.
Hazlett-Stevens encouraged council members to come to Community Court any Wednesday morning to see how the program is progressing.
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.