September 13, 2012 | Back to: News

Election 2012: Incline fire board candidates sound off

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A total of eight residents turned out for a forum last Wednesday for the five candidates vying for three seats this November on the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

The candidates — Steve King, Wayne Fischer (incumbent), Chris May, Dale Smith (incumbent) and Paul Zahler (a former board member) — answered various questions about issues within the district and some of the larger hurdles facing the board in 2013 and beyond. Below is a sampling of some of the candidates' comments.

On the biggest issue facing the board next year: “The No. 1 thing for me is making sure there's always adequate coverage for any fire that occurs in the village ... or should there be a medical issue. We need to continue on fuels management and help reduce the threat of a fire in our community ... and balance that again with the budget situation we are in. We did put away most of that money, but unfortunately through this whole process we've drained all our finds. We'll get through this year just fine, but starting next year it's going to be a challenge.”

On whether NLTFPD should consider consolidating services with other fire departments in Washoe County: “I vehemently oppose consolidation at this point in time. Sparks and Reno, they're a city, and we live in the forest. We have our own medical ... and we provide a lot of uniqueness up here and we're close to our citizens. I would resist it.”

On if he supported the board's vote earlier this year to raise property taxes by 16 percent for the 2012-13 fiscal year: “We need to bring it back to the rate it's been the past 10 years.”

On if defensible space should be mandatory: “What I think we need to do in the future is devote more money at fuels management. It's something we will be doing forever. We budget about $250,000 a year ... once we get through this mess with the tax revolt. I would like to see the fuels team be up to a $1 million a year — to me that is a very good investment.”

On the biggest issue facing the board next year: “Definitely the budget, and definitely defensible space.”

On whether NLTFPD should consider consolidating services with other fire departments in Washoe County: “I don't want Reno controlling our fire department .. we can control our fire department a lot better than Washoe.”

On if the board is transparent and does a good job communicating with the public: “I think personally (the board) can do a better job. For example, the Tahoe City PUD posts all their videos on the PUD website. It's very easy to access information. The (current fire) board is transparent, but I think it can improve with technology and provide easier access to their information.”

On if defensible space should be mandatory: “No — I think government can be smarter ... usually they're not. I would rather educate the public and have community support each other.”

On if he supported the board's vote earlier this year to raise property taxes by 16 percent for the 2012-13 fiscal year: “I do support the increase.”

On the biggest issue facing the board: “The budget is a major concern. We're going to have to look at maybe reducing staffing, closing stations, over the next 3 years until we get rid of this … payback to the county.”

On whether NLTFPD should consider consolidating services with other fire departments in Washoe County: “There are pluses and minuses to consolidation. Incline's tried to incorporate before, split away from county … the fire department would have separate funding. If services were over the hill, that's a long ways away. Services in Reno are different than ours. We're basically like a little island up here and can be cut off at any time. We need to make sure we're self sufficient, keep our forces up.”

On if he supported the board's vote earlier this year to raise property taxes by 16 percent for the 2012-13 fiscal year: “There are other items, other options we could have done.”

On the importance of union negotiations: “It needs to be looked at. There are a lot of people not in the union contract that get the same salary.”

On what the fire district's priorities should be: “Fire coverage and emergency medical services need to be top priority, then fuels management.”

On whether NLTFPD should consider consolidating services with other fire departments in Washoe County: “I absolutely would do everything I could to resist consolidation with other Washoe County fire districts and departments. I just don't see us going backwards and turning that control over to the county. I think we have a really unique resource here that a lot of communities don't share and personnel that are committed to this community.”

On if defensible space should be mandatory: “(We) need to let the state know that this is something that communities like Incline are concerned about. I would like to see mandatory defensible space.”

On if he supported the board's vote earlier this year to raise property taxes by 16 percent for the 2012-13 fiscal year: “There's a misconception in the community that we raised the money to pay back the money taxpayers. Specifically, it was to make up the shortfall in taxes that the district gets back from the state, a local government relief tax — the property tax was raised to make up for that shortfall, and if there isn't a shortfall next year, we shouldn't even have the opportunity to raise the tax.”

On the importance of union negotiations: “Property values are not going to rebound any time in the foreseeable future, and the district cannot continue to pay the same salaries and benefits packages and remain viable now. I think it's the employees gutting used to the fact there are going to be cuts ... make sure employees understand what's going on, not only regionally but across the country.”

On whether NLTFPD should consider consolidating services with other fire departments in Washoe County: “I'm against consolidation. However our most important asset ... is our cooperation around the lake. I always have been a believer that there are ways we can share services with the departments. What about maintenance? Half the stuff we do in maintenance could possible be handled in a central location, and everyone chip into that … that would help the budget, looking into options like that. We also have way too many people traveling over the hill, cut down on that with some sort of ride-sharing program. I understand there are certain constraints with that, but that mileage adds up. We need to look at all areas where we can save money.”

On if defensible space should be mandatory: “The problem ... is TRPA. They operate with their eyes shut and fingers in their ears. We should be thinning two-thirds of the forest that's out there. There should be a mandatory fuel reduction program. We'll have less chance of a catastrophic wildfire ... I believe in (mandatory fuels reduction), yes.”

On if he supported the board's vote earlier this year to raise property taxes by 16 percent for the 2012-13 fiscal year: “It's the lesser of two evils. If we don't cover ourselves this way, it would be worse, because we would have to diminish services or close a station, then everybody's fire insurance would double, and it's much more than what the tax impact would be.”

On what the fire district's priorities should be: “Medical emergency response is probably No. 1, followed closely by fire suppression. If you want to look at it, it's 49 one way, 51 the other. Those are the big two.”


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Sep 13, 2012 11:48AM Published Sep 13, 2012 11:44AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.