County Commissioner John Breteritz, of Dist. 1, placed on Monday’s agenda a resolution that passed by a 3-2 vote — with Commissioners Kitty Jung and Bob Larkin dissenting — authorizing the county to submit an advisory question on November’s general election ballot asking the voters whether local governments should be required to send the closest response unit to fire and medical emergencies — regardless of jurisdiction.
Commissioner Jung is currently running for Reno City Council.
The resolution calls for actual costs of the service to be balanced annually among the affected governments. It also is required to meet the statutory requirements to place such a question on the general election ballot — which means three-member citizen committees, appointed by commissioners, will be formed to script “pro” and “con” arguments and rebuttals to be included in sample ballots.
During Monday’s meeting, commissioners decided to exclude the city of Sparks from the automatic aid resolution, said John Slaughter, director of management services for the county.
“The city of Sparks is really not part of the question, so it will be rewritten to not include Sparks,” Slaughter said. “They are not really part of the equation.”
The Sparks Fire Department maintains autonomy by operating its own dispatch and emergency operations centers, away from a combined dispatch complex that houses Washoe County sheriff, Reno police and fire and an emergency operations center on Spectrum Way.
County commissioners directed staff on May 22 to initiate the process to place the resolution question on the ballot and bring a question forward for review and possible approval before July 16, the deadline for submitting ballot questions.
“In emergency services, automatic aid agreements are used to automatically dispatch closest public safety resources to an emergency incident,” Slaughter wrote in a staff report. “Such agreements are entered into by two communities or fire districts to lend assistance to one another across jurisdictional boundaries. Such formal standing agreements are intended to ensure resources are dispatched from the nearest emergency facility, such as a fire station, regardless of which side of the jurisdictional boundary the incident is located.”
From the time the county divorced fire services from the city of Reno and stood up its own fire district in the Truckee Meadows region, the city has refused to sign an automatic aid agreement. The city of Reno also has made it difficult for Charles Moore, chief of the Truckee Meadows and Sierra fire protection districts, to agree to a mutual aid agreement that is extremely different from a typical agreement, calling for several unusual demands. Neither an auto aid or mutual aid agreement has been signed by the city of Reno or the county since July 1, the official start date of Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.
The question would appear as: “Should local governments be required to provide closest unit emergency response to fire and medical emergencies, regardless of jurisdiction?”