Truckee/Tahoe residents frustrated after lack of answers at Truckee fire board meeting
May 5, 2010
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Many questions about the motivations behind a Truckee Fire Protection District ambulance stationed in Olympic Valley went unanswered at Tuesday night’s fire district board meeting, leaving residents frustrated and accusing the board of illegal actions.
Board members said they need more time to research many of the questions, but did say the decision to rent a condominium in Olympic Valley and#8212; within the Squaw Valley Fire Department’s boundaries and#8212; was made by Truckee Fire Chief Bryce Keller as an operational decision.
and#8220;Right now we have a drag race between our guys, who get the call, and your guys next door. Is that a good idea? I don’t think so,and#8221; said Dale Cox, chair of the Squaw Valley Public Service District Board.
Cox said Keller and#8220;shreddedand#8221; 25 years of cooperation between the two departments, adding that the move has hurt the morale of Squaw firefighters and#8212; calling Truckee’s actions and#8220;an intolerable show of disrespect.and#8221;
Keller said stationing an ambulance for transport over the winter on weekends and holidays in Olympic Valley is a good and necessary service because it shortens response times to transport patients to the hospital. The district has rented a condominium for purposes of and#8220;rest and logistical support,and#8221; he said, for the ambulance crew posted there full time for the next six months, as of May 1.
Cox said Squaw already has fast response times for transport from ambulances in Alpine Meadows and Tahoe City.
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Squaw Chief Pete Bansen told the Sierra Sun he thinks the issue boils down to the fees patients have to pay for ambulance service.
and#8220;There’s more than one transport agency service in Squaw and#8212; sometimes it’s Truckee and sometimes it’s North Tahoe, but since the change in dispatch it’s been North Tahoe more often, and that seems to have caused frustration with Truckee,and#8221; Bansen said during a break in Tuesday’s meeting outside the board room.
The issue of fees raised audience questions of whether tax dollars from within the Truckee Fire Protection District are paying for the service in Olympic Valley and#8212; outside the district’s boundaries and tax collection.
and#8220;Now Squaw Valley has the best response times of anywhere, and I’m paying for it,and#8221; said Todd Conradson, a Truckee resident.
and#8220;My tax money isn’t designed to go provide a services in a place that has service already,and#8221; said Truckee resident Jeff Geigle.
In an interview prior to the board meeting, Keller said, and#8220;Are we charging the taxpayer for out-of-area service? No we’re not.and#8221;
Pat Davison, representing the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe, posed questions to the board: Are Truckee stations short staffed to staff Squaw Valley, and if not, does the district have too many personnel?
Truckee resident and attorney Jim Porter asked the board to answer these and other questions from the public, urging it to be open and transparent as a public agency.
He said in looking over the last year’s worth of agendas, he never saw the Olympic Valley stationing go before the board of directors for a vote, and asked the board if it had voted for it.
Truckee Fire Board Member Ben Malone said it was an and#8220;operational changeand#8221; the chief has control over, and the board doesn’t have to vote on.
and#8220;You should at least know,and#8221; Porter responded.
Board member Joseph Straub said the board had discussed the matter in and#8220;executive sessionand#8221; and#8212; closed to the public and#8212; in previous meetings, something Porter later said is illegal because there was no threat of litigation against the district, a common reason for going into closed session.
When the board prepared to enter closed session Tuesday evening, citing significant exposure to litigation, Porter asked who was threatening to sue the district.
and#8220;They were unable to respond and#8212; it’s not someone threatening to sue them, it’s that they were threatening to sue someone else,and#8221; Bansen said while the audience was outside waiting for a decision on the closed session.
That would potentially be a violation of the Brown Act, the governing rules for public boards like the fire district’s, he said, and Porter agreed, later characterizing it as an illegal attempt to and#8220;do their business behind closed doors.and#8221;
After some minutes, the board decided not to go into closed session, and ended the meeting.
and#8220;We’ll put the questions (from the public) on the agenda for the next meeting,and#8221; said Board Member Gary Waters.
The next meeting is scheduled for May 18, according to http://www.truckeefire.org.