City Council, fire district agree to consider assessments

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Robert Perea

Fernleyreporter.com

The city of Fernley is looking to do whatever it can to spur development, and the North Lyon County Fire Protection District is worried about its ability to keep up with the increased call volume growth would bring.

Thursday the Fernley City Council and the fire district’s Board of Directors met for the first of what could become a series of talks to look for solutions that might answer both concerns.

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The first idea the two entities agreed to kick around is the possibility of imposing a public safety assessment on Fernley residents to help solve the fire district’s revenue problems.

The assessment was first mentioned by councilwoman Sue Seidl, and the two boards agreed to put together a committee comprising of both city and fire district staff and a couple of members of both the city council and the district Board of Directors to discuss the idea.

Fire District board president Jon Osborn said he wanted the fire board to discuss the idea of assessments at its next board meeting and he proposed a second joint meeting between the council and fire board, possibly sometime in July.

Thursday’s joint meeting was requested by Mayor Roy Edgington to discuss future growth and public safety within the district and the city. Fire Chief Scott Huntley had sent an email to city officials Feb. 17 in which he said the first district would not approve any future developments until the district’s financial situation and ability to deal with future growth had been addressed.

That drew the ire of many within the city, particularly councilman Cal Eilrich, who requested the city research who is required to sign subdivision maps and asked for an item to be paced on a council agenda to research the possibility of seeking requests for proposals for exclusive ambulance service within the city.

After meeting with Huntley, Eilrich pulled his request for the agenda item on ambulance service from the agenda from the March 16 city council meeting.

Edgington attended the March 15 meeting of the fire board to ask the directors to meet jointly with the city council to discuss the items raised in Huntley’s letter.

At Thursday’s meeting, Huntley said the fire district does not have a funding shortage now, but fears it could if the pace of growth exceeds the district’s revenues. The fire district is planning to place a ballot question on the November General Election ballot to ask Fernley voters to approve a property tax increase of 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to increase the district’s budget.

The district’s property tax rate of 29.32 cents per $100 is the lowest among Lyon County’s four fire districts. The district serves a population of approximately 19,368 with 12 paid firefighters.

“What’s being discussed is where we’re going,” Huntley said. “If you add 2,000 people, it’s going to affect our call volume.”

Seidl suggested the assessment be placed on the city’s tax rolls similar to the water bond debt fee assessment the city imposed to help pay for its water treatment plant.

Edgington opened the meeting by reading a letter explain why he asked for the joint meeting of the two boards.

“Tonight what I’d like to see is both parties be proactive,” Edgington said. “I’d like to see some action items moving forward – who is going to do what and some due dates.”

In response to a question from Osborn, Edgington estimated that about 100 new homes will be built in the next year.

Eilrich said Edgington’s estimate may be a little short.

“I believe Fernley was the fastest growing city in America in the first quarter of 2006, and all of the stuff that was there then is there now,” Eilrich said. “It’s happening faster than you think.”

Eilrich cited a report by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada that northern Nevada will have to build the equivalent of two Carson City’s within the next five years, because of projected job growth in the region, primarily at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. The city expects to receive a significant amount of residential growth from workers at the industrial center.

“If we’re going to do something, we should do it quick and get the ball rolling,” Eilrich said. “Let’s not waste any time and let a whole bunch of permits get cold without revenues getting created.”

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