Truckee Fire Chief Bryce Keller on immediate paid leave; Bob Bena named interim chief |

Truckee Fire Chief Bryce Keller on immediate paid leave; Bob Bena named interim chief

Sun File PhotoBryce Keller.

UPDATE: 5 p.m.

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; After a four-hour closed session at Tuesday nightand#8217;s Truckee Fire Protection District Board of Directors meeting, legal counsel Brent Collinson announced that the board decided not to renew Chief Kellerand#8217;s contract.

Collinson said the board voted on three items during the closed session; to give Keller notice of non-renewal of his contract, which is up Dec. 28 of this year; to retain Michael Colantuano as special counsel for employment issues; and to put Keller on paid administrative leave, effective immediately, until further notice.

In a phone call Wednesday, Keller declined comment.

Board Director Ben Malone said the majority of the board feels the district is moving in another direction and is no longer in line with Kellerand#8217;s direction and#8212; but he stressed the action was not a punishment.

On each of the three votes, directors Ben Malone, Ron Perea, Bob Snyder and Gary Waters voted for, and Director Joe Straub Jr. voted against, Collinson said.

Deputy Chief Bob Bena becomes acting fire chief, effective immediately, Collinson said, and the board will have to decide next steps in finding and selecting a permanent replacement.

Jim Porter, a local attorney whoand#8217;s been critical of both the chief and the board, said the board should be held accountable as well.

and#8220;It is time for new blood on the fire board. By years of benign neglect, they allowed Chief Keller to seriously damage the department, hurting the dedicated fire personnel and our community,and#8221; Porter wrote in an e-mail.

About 30 to 40 people attended Tuesdayand#8217;s meeting and#8212; which wrapped up at about 11:20 p.m. and#8212; to hear discussion on recent controversial issues, including plans to open a temporary fire station during current construction on the Glenshire station upgrade, and the districtand#8217;s move to place a Truckee ambulance in Olympic Valley earlier this spring.

The Glenshire issue didnand#8217;t draw public comment, and Bena said with permits filed with the town after some debate, construction is going smoothly.

and#8220;It appears to be moving along really well,and#8221; Bena said.

As to the ambulance issue, Malone said he met with North Tahoe Fire and Squaw Valley Fire, as arranged by Sierra Sacramento Valley EMS, the local ambulance authority, to discuss the Olympic Valley ambulance issue.

and#8220;I think the meeting went very well,and#8221; Malone said.

Chuck Thomas of the fire district presented figures demonstrating the shortfall in ambulance revenue that could hit the district if Squaw Valley Fire and Northstar Fire both started their own ambulance services, but Squaw Chief Pete Bansen disputed that likelihood, calling it a and#8220;doomsday scenario.and#8221;

and#8220;I think itand#8217;s pretty unlikely both Squaw Valley and Northstar are going to go into the ambulance business,and#8221; Bansen said. and#8220;These are Chicken Little economics; this is just not realistic.and#8221;

He added that he figured, using Truckeeand#8217;s numbers, staffing an ambulance in Olympic Valley 24/7 would net a loss of $370,000 for Truckee, almost as much as what Truckee projected in losses if Squaw and Northstar started their own ambulance services.

Bansen said he thought heand#8217;d come up with a fair way for Truckee and North Tahoe to share calls, and therefore revenue, from Olympic Valley, but Rodney Dyche, special counsel to the district, pointed out it wasnand#8217;t Bansenand#8217;s place to divvy up ambulance responses.

For a full recap of the meeting, check out the live coverage recap below:

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