Plan calls for millions of dollars for public safety

A new report on public safety in Carson City shows an immediate need for 19 new sheriff personnel and a new fire station among other recommendations totaling more than $10 million.

Carson City supervisors commissioned the $65,000 public safety study to "try to be sure to have a sense of the resources we need to plan for into the future to maintain this community's expected level of service," City Manager John Berkich said.

Both Fire Chief Lou Buckley and sheriff's Chief Deputy Scott Burau said the plan contained "nothing that hasn't been said before."

"We asked for a shakedown, and we got one," Burau said.

Among multiple administrative changes, the plan by Abbey Group Consultants, a public safety technology consulting firm based in Incline Village, suggests within three months of its adoption supervisors begin planning for:

-- Nine dispatchers for the city's communications center, including a dispatcher on each shift devoted strictly to handling emergency medical and fire calls. While the plan asks for several new deputy and investigator positions, Burau said dispatch staffing is "the first priority we'll take a look at."

Specifically, the plan notes a need for four supervisors and five dispatchers, which would allow the dispatch center 24-hour supervision, Burau said. The current situation allows for dispatcher supervision through one manager and one supervisor. Sometimes due to vacation, leave and sick days, the center is left with only two dispatchers handling calls for fire, sheriff and various other city departments.

"This is really a liability waiting to happen," Burau said. "If we don't have the staff to dispatch a call, and God forbid something happens, the city enjoys a certain liability for that. The bottom line is we're understaffed and do not have the ability to answer the radio when we're tied up in 911 calls."

-- A new fire station with equipment and firefighters in the northwest section of the city. Consultants estimated the building at $1 million. Buckley said the fire department received more than 5,000 calls last year, the number at which the department estimated the need for a fourth station. Buckley estimates $2 million in start-up costs for a new station.

-- A new sheriff's administration building, estimated by consultants at $6.3 million. The current building dates to the 1960s and was built on a natural spring, which has created flooding and mold problems through the years.

"It's important. Should it be our No. 1 priority?" Burau said. "Not withstanding personnel, everything we do hinges on delivery of service to the community. Technology comes before a building. If we fail to deliver a service, it doesn't matter how nice the building is."

-- A grant writer shared between the sheriff and fire departments to secure extra funds for both as well as a shared computer technician .

Burau and Buckley said they and other public safety officials apply for grants in their spare time -- if they know about them. Burau said to save money, a person could be contracted to do grant writing for the entire city. Burau said the city's information resource department is overburdened, and an extra person is needed solely to keep up with increasingly complex public safety computer technology.

-- A new ambulance -- $90,000 -- with paramedics and a ladder truck for the fire department.

Buckley disagrees with certain parts of the plan, for instance that the city needs a new, staffed ladder truck and four new fire management personnel.

"Why would you staff to the tune of $800,000 a truck you can use on a fire once every 10 years?" he asked. "We can use additional personnel more effectively than more managers."

However, he said he's argued for an extra ambulance for years, even giving Berkich different scenarios for funding the request. More than 1,600 times last year, both city ambulances were out when they were needed elsewhere, Buckley said.

Buckley and Burau said it will be up to city supervisors what to do with the plan.

"It could create a sense of frustration because where are they going to get $10 million?" Buckley said. "I don't think everything in phase one will be implemented within two to three years. If in 10 to 15 years it could be implemented that would be extremely outstanding.

"The board paid a lot money for an opinion. I hope they will listen to what those people have to say. It's up to them what the priorities are."


What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 1:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.


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