Lake Valley, SLTFD consider consolidation |

Lake Valley, SLTFD consider consolidation

Adam Jensen

Since the economy crashed, representatives from various South Shore agencies have, at one point or another, kicked around the possibility of consolidating to save diminishing public dollars.

Lake Valley Fire Protection District and the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department may be the first to make good on the idea.

On Tuesday, the South Lake Tahoe City Council will hear a presentation by SLTFD Fire Chief Brian Uhler on the possibility of consolidating the two fire agencies. The council may also authorize the creation of a study group to further explore the prospect.

“The principle benefit of a regional (fire) service provider are reduced cost, increased effectiveness, and larger depth of resources, thereby ensuring the public the highest level of fire and emergency medical resources,” Uhler said in a report to the City Council this week.

On March 8, Lake Valley’s Board of Directors approved exploring the feasibility of consolidating the two agencies.

“With the current economic downturn, it is a perfect time to consider consolidation of essential fire protection and EMS services,” Lake Valley Fire Chief Gareth Harris wrote in a letter to the council. “The realization of economies of scale and the elimination of a duplication of services with a consolidation of fire protection services on the South Shore would potentially benefit city of South Lake Tahoe residents as well as the existing constituents served by the Lake Valley Fire Protection District.”

All of the properties within the city would be annexed into Lake Valley under the proposal, which would require all fire department employees represented by a labor organization to leave their employment with the city and become employees of the fire protection district, according to the letter. Unrepresented fire department employees displaced by the consolidation would be offered positions with the district as at-will employees, Harris added.

The proposal also includes the replacement of several of the city’s fire engines and the remodeling of Stations 2 and 3 to accommodate a new ladder truck and meet current fire station requirements.

If consolidation moves forward, residents of South Lake Tahoe would become eligible to run for a seat on Lake Valley’s Board.

Harris’ letter serves as a “great starting point for discussions,” according to Uhler, who expects the possibility of a full consolidation to be a “very intensive undertaking.”

Uhler is recommending the formation of a consolidation study group consisting of City Council members, the city manager, himself, fire association representatives, Lake Valley staff and members of the Lake Valley Board to take a closer look at the possibility.

Determining possible savings from the consolidation is expected to be one of the study group’s tasks.

The City Council meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Lake Tahoe Airport.

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