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The Voice of Rural Nevadans
by John L. Smith
Feb 20, 2011 | 714 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rural Nevadans have never been shy about making themselves heard. At times their collective voice is all that keeps them from being flattened for the sake of political expediency.

These days my neighbors on Mount Charleston are shouting their displeasure with Gov. Brian Sandoval. I’m surprised his ears aren’t burning in Carson City.

They filled Lundy Elementary School recently to discuss and protest the plan by Sandoval to close Nevada Division of Forestry Station No. 1 in an attempt to help balance the state budget. Should the proposal make it through the budget process, the NDF station closure would come in 2012.

The Mount Charleston Fire Protection District currently “guarantees the protection of life and safety to the approximately 1,000 residents, school, library, church, resort, lodge, ski resort, numerous youth/church/club camps and the 2.1 million annual visitors to Mt. Charleston,” the citizens’ handbill stated.

The trouble with the governor’s proposal is simple: southern Nevada residents already pay a majority of the approximately $1 million annual bill to keep Station No. 1 running. The fire protection district receives $887,679 from the Clark County General Fund. The state’s savings, at most, would be about $130,359.

Given the fact a large majority of the state’s costs are also picked up by southern Nevada taxpayers, the savings outside Clark County would be minimal.

In addition, emergency calls on the mountain are routed through the CCFD fire dispatch center. Clark County pays the state more than $56,000 annually to help fund the NDF’s Minden dispatch station, a service it rarely uses. (The Minden dispatch is slated for closure with its responsibilities to be transferred to Elko County.)

That further reduces the state’s practical financial investment on the mountain.

Of note: Should the governor succeed with this ill-conceived idea, it would mean a cost to county taxpayers of about $2.2 million per year to pay just for the CCFD personnel necessary to keep a full-time county fire station in operation. That doesn’t include the many millions necessary to build an appropriate county fire station. (CCFD Volunteer Station No. 81 is a metal building without plumbing.)

Nevada Fire Safe Council official Kim Otero reminded residents that it took NDF Station No. 1 just eight minutes to begin attacking the fire caused by a light plane crash in June 2008 that killed four persons. It would have taken a valley-based county fire crew at least 30 minutes to reach the fire scene, which threatened dozens of homes.

Earl Greene, retired Clark County fire chief and pastor of a Baptist church in Kyle Canyon, also addressed the gathering. He gave his experienced perspective on the possible budget process at work. He also implored the audience to keep the facts foremost.

“If we’re going to do this we need to be united and we need to be focused,” Greene said. “You can’t just go on emotion alone.”

Former County Commissioner Thalia Dondero, who owns a cabin in Kyle Canyon, reminded the residents, “Every other small community in this state of Nevada has a fire station and the same services that we are asking for in this community.”

She asked the residents to request a hearing with the governor.

“Either have it here or have it there,” Dondero said.

Lundy Elementary teacher and mountain resident Debra Harpster’s students are regularly taught fire safety by the NDF firefighters, who also conduct fire drills at the Kyle Canyon school. The fire crew also responded to Harpster’s home when her mother suffered a stroke. And when the house next door caught on fire, those NDF firefighters helped save Harpster’s home.

Longtime Kyle Canyon resident Becky Grismanauskas delivered an impassioned plea to locals to write their local and state representatives to make their voices heard.

“It’s up to you what’s going to happen, folks ...” she said. “There is a chance that we can pull this out. … This is not a done deal.”

There’s a lot of fighting left, but those mountain residents are just getting warmed up.

John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or at 702-383-0295.
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