Meeks Bay, North Tahoe fire districts consider annexation
The Meeks Bay and North Tahoe fire districts are operating under a functional consolidation.
That means they act as one when offering service to the public, but operate as two separate fire districts.
Now, they are looking into potentially merging as one district, although that would be a lengthy process.
These districts cover a large parcel of Lake Tahoe. Meeks Bay is a fire district that covers the area from the El Dorado County line on the West Shore, down to Emerald Bay. The North Tahoe Fire Protection District covers everything from the El Dorado County line on the West Shore, up through Tahoe City and Kings Beach, and ending at the Nevada state line. Both districts currently stand back-to-back and operate under a contract that allows the North Tahoe Fire District to send services to Meeks Bay for fire operations and emergency medical services.
Merging the fire districts would help to eliminate some bureaucracy and expedite some decision making, as well as communication. As it stands, the two districts currently have to hold separate board meetings. If the districts were to merge, the boards would be able to join in some capacity, and be able to discuss matters together rather than apart, as well as fully share funds and resources.
“In order to do that you have to go through a process called LAFCo,” said Edward Miller, board president of the Meeks Bay Fire District. Miller has served the Meeks Bay district for about 39 years.
“Every county has a (Local Agency Formation Commission) office that’s aligned with the state,” he added. “If more than one district wants to join with another, it has to go through the LAFCo process. They study everything to make sure that that’s going to work before they form a new special district.”
Miller said that the the Meeks Bay board would like to retain a consultant to do a current fiscal study in order to obtain the most up-to-date information. The two districts have just recently begun voting on whether or not to start that process. North Tahoe Fire will have a board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26, to decide whether to proceed with Meeks Bay Fire’s proposal.
For the timeline of events, Miller said the fiscal study could take up to six months, and the LAFCo process the same amount. He estimates that if all runs smoothly, the annexation of the two districts could happen somewhere at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.
According to North Tahoe Fire’s Public Information Officer Erin Holland, the potential for a merger of fire districts has been on the North Tahoe Fire’s board agenda since August 2018.
Board president of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, Mike Baffone, said that the original fiscal study done in 2018, which cost around $42,000, could be used in the LAFCo process. He does not view an additional study to be necessary due to the extra cost that would be accrued, which he estimates could be around $50,000.
Baffone said that he looks forward to continuing a great relationship with Meeks Bay, and would like to move forward with an annexation and consolidation to better both districts.
“We could actually have the annexation done by the middle of next year, moving forward with the study that we have.” said Baffone.
Baffone encourages members of the public to attend the board meeting, which happens the fourth Tuesday of every month, by going to the North Tahoe Fire Protection District website — http://www.ntfire.net. Holland said the agenda is typically posted the Friday before each meeting.
In addition to the potential annexation of the two districts, the board of Meeks Bay Fire is currently looking to fill a fifth seat. The seat has been vacant since June 2020.
Those who would like to apply must be a full-time local resident. Those interested may contact Shawn Crawford, clerk of the Board of Directors, at 530-525-7548 and email a resume to Shawn@MeeksBayFire.com for consideration.
Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of the Tribune.
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