County Commissioners Give Direction on Fire Services Issues

Washoe County Commissioners, sitting as both the Sierra Fire Protection District and Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Boards, directed fire services officials to move forward in their analysis of various ways to provide cost effective fire services to multiple neighborhoods located in the unincorporated areas of Washoe County. Specifically, they directed Sierra Fire Chief Michael Greene, Washoe County Fire Services Coordinator Kurt Latipow and Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez to work together and “think outside the box” to explore all possible options to achieve the goal of efficient, effective fire services given the budget situation all fire departments are facing.

Based on previous direction from the Board, Fire Services Coordinator Kurt Latipow worked last year with a consultant to conduct a Regional Standards of Cover study. That study was deemed incomplete as it lacked response time data from the Reno Fire Department. The Reno Fire Department has since agreed to participate with the new consultant to complete the study. County Commissioners encouraged staff and the consultant to look at ranges of response times, not fixed points, and to bring back an analysis of costs to support the various target response times in the finished study.

County Commissioners also directed Sierra Fire Protection District (SFPD) Chief Michael Greene to pursue the various options he had identified as possible ways to address current and future deficits. SFPD relies on a dedicated property tax paid by citizens in their service territory; it makes up 72% of their total revenues. With property values declining over the past several years and given future forecasts, SFPD will have already lost and/or will lose $2.2 million or 25.4% of its total annual revenue between fiscal years 2008/09 and 2012/13.

Chief Greene also received direction from the Board to contact the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to pursue additional funds so the proposed Arrowcreek Fire Station can be built. Sierra Fire had applied for and received a FEMA grant of $2.1 million as part of the available federal stimulus funds. After spending $200,000 on design and site preparation to bid construction of the project, the County solicited bids from contractors to build the new fire station. The bids came in at least $400,000 above the engineer’s estimate of $1.9 million. Officials attribute part of this to the stringent energy efficient features of the building as required by the FEMA grant.

Latipow confirmed with the Board that he will pursue the items they provided direction on and present findings to the April 11th Joint Fire Advisory Board meeting. Based on action taken at that meeting, recommendations will be presented to County Commissioners soon afterward.