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Fire funding discussion gets heated

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE ” Funding for firefighting and ambulances, normally an innocuous subject, turned contentious at a workshop Monday evening.

The Truckee Fire Protection District says it needs more funding to keep services apace of growth and development, but some developers and local leaders took issue with the way the district is looking for more funds.

“When we passed the benefit assessment in April, people were saying ‘make growth pay for it,'” said Brent Collinson, legal council for the fire district.

The assessment, passed by the voters, was to hire more firefighters (effective this month) to maintain response times, Collinson said.

Last fall, the district started exploring a Mello-Roos district that would include a number of new developments, which would pay an additional tax to further help the district keep up. The tax was voted down, leaving the district still in need, Collinson said.

The district has goals of hitting response times 90 percent of the time ” 10 minutes for fire and 8 minutes for ambulance.

Last year, the percentages were 75 and 76 respectively, according to Gary Botto and Chuck Thomas of the fire district.

And while nobody at Monday’s workshop was against keeping up service levels, some disagreed with how the district is going about it.

Pat Davison of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe said the tax district would mean people in a newer subdivision would be paying more for the same service as a neighbor in an older neighborhood.

James Porter, an attorney for a number of developments, said he didn’t like the way the district approached the tax.

“You got your fee in April and in August you went for another fee. I’m concerned the public was not told,” Porter said. “Then the district wrote a letter to these developments that said if they did not vote to be taxed you cannot provide service. I find that to be blackmail.”

Chris Parker with Sugar Bowl, which has units planned that would have been in the Mello-Roos District, agreed.

“How is the district avoiding coercion?” Parker said. “I was clearly told to vote a certain way. That’s clearly in violation of my rights as a voter.”

Many present didn’t like the blanket methodology being applied to new development.

“What I’m hearing again and again is people want project-by-project analysis rather than districtwide,” said Rob Eskridge, the facilitator for the evening from Growth Management Center.

Fire Chief Bryce Keller said the district still stands by the economic analysis, but plans on addressing the evening’s unanswered questions before action is taken by the district board.

Does the Truckee Fire Protection District taxing new development matter to you? What should the district do next? Leave your comments on this story below.


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