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Reno waits on Washoe fire deal
by Jill Lufrano
Mar 28, 2012 | 1331 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune File - Reno Mayor Bob Cashell said Wednesday he wants the city to get more input before making any decisions on a joint fire services agreement with Washoe County.
Tribune File - Reno Mayor Bob Cashell said Wednesday he wants the city to get more input before making any decisions on a joint fire services agreement with Washoe County.
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RENO — Reno City Council members decided Wednesday to delay making a decision on giving Washoe County any direction regarding its Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and Sierra Fire Protection District Cooperative Fire Services Agreement Proposal until the city meets with county, Sparks and school leaders during a joint meeting scheduled for April 2.

“I’m just lost and I don’t want to send them anything unless we get some direction,” Mayor Bob Cashell said. “This is strictly a power play with county commissioners. They want their three-person crews and they’re going to die on whether they get it or not.”

Cashell said he believes all items regarding Washoe County’s decision to stand up its own fire organization in the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District is open for renegotiation.

“All contracts are open,” Cashell said. “What’s wrong with what we have now? We’re hoping we can sit down and work it out.”

Councilman Dwight Dortch said he believes a contract that was approved in June of last year should be allowed to continue until June this year. That way, if new officials are allowed to be introduced into the process, other possibilities might be available.

Dortch said it would send the wrong message to outright reject Washoe County’s proposal to Reno.

“It just sends the wrong message if we reject this,” he said. “We should just leave it open and worry about what we do after we have (the April 2) meeting.

“Maybe if we look at this with fresh eyes ... I know it’s kicking it down the road, but we can go for a year and talk about it,” he said. “I don’t know if we should be the ones making these decisions.”

Councilwoman Sharon Zadra said Washoe County and Reno both agree a regional approach to fire service is needed, but getting to an agreement is not likely.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get there,” Zadra said.

The cost to provide fire services to outlying areas is at the heart of the matter, Reno council members said during Wednesday’s meeting.

“This has been blown way out of proportion as to what’s going on,” Councilman David Aiazzi said. “They either provide (fire service) themselves or pay us to do it. It’s not that big of a thing the public is making it out to be. We live in a city and are choosing to have higher service levels. Our residents shouldn’t have to pay for (other area services). The county is making decisions solely on financial interests.”

The joint April 2 meeting follows a year of attempts by Washoe County and the city of Reno to discuss fire services deconsolidation. Previous joint meetings about fire services have been rescheduled or canceled because of procedural issues.

Next week’s meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. inside the Washoe County commission chambers. It will mark the first time elected officials from Reno, Washoe County, the city of Sparks and the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees will sit at the same table to talk about fire services in the region. The elected officials will speak about five other topics during the meeting, including interlocal political disputes involving gridlock on the Truckee River Flood Management Authority, animal services, the homeless shelter and community center in downtown Reno and potential cuts to the county’s senior services.

In the past few months, Washoe County decided to divorce the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District from the rest of the regional fire district and consider merging it with the Sierra Fire Protection District in order to run its own fire agency. The districts, previously manned by Reno Fire firefighters, have caused a whirlwind of controversy within the area as nearly all fire agencies have been forced to renegotiate automatic aid agreements with neighboring agencies. All stations within the region are being examined for staffing levels and equipment usage.
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