County wants Minden tanker base to stay

Douglas County commissioners endorsed the continued use of Minden-Tahoe Airport as an air tanker base Thursday, following a proposal by the Bureau of Land Management to shut it down in 2007.

Local bureau officials are facing a proposed 5-10 percent reduction in their budget, not enough to retain four full-time employees needed to keep the base open.

"We want to be here, but we're struggling to make the available dollars do the work we have on our plate. We have some hard choices to make," said Don Hicks, field manager for the bureau in Carson City. "Any help the community can contribute on our behalf will be appreciated."

If the base is closed, air tankers will refuel at Stead Airport north of Reno, adding at least another 20 minutes each way for the commute, according to bureau officials.

Commission Chairman Jim Baushke said one of the most important uses of our airport is emergency services.

"We have to keep you here. There's no doubt about that," he said. "We're closest base to the Lake Tahoe basin. That reaction time is critical and it's my personal feeling, that I will go as far as I can to keep you here."

Hicks urged support for other firefighting entities, like the United States Forest Service and Nevada Division of Forestry.

"They're major players," he said.

Three options have been proposed to solve staffing level shortfalls:

If both Minden and Stead are maintained as heavy air tanker bases, the shortfall would be $98,000.

If Minden is retained as an air tactical base, servicing the single engine air tankers and helicopters. The deficit would be reduced to $68,000 and Stead would be the only heavy air tanker base in the area.

The funding shortfall would be eliminated under the third option, which would move both the single engine tankers and air attack facilities to Stead, leaving only the Nevada Division of Forestry helicopters in Minden.

In other business:

• Commissioners approved an ordinance for Park Cattle Co., changing the zoning on 80-acres, from 19-acre to five-acre parcel sizes. The vote was 3-2, with commissioners David Brady and Doug Johnson dissenting.

• Commissioners approved the development of 105 residential parcels on almost 44 acres of land south of Toler Lane and east of Highway 395 in Gardnerville for Sierra Nevada SW Enterprises.

The project includes a 10-acre school site, open space and 3.8 acres for RV storage. The lot sizes, which include sidewalks and curbs, are about 5,000 square feet.

The vote was 3-2, with commissioners Brady and Johnson dissenting.

• Commissioners approved plans for Rancho Sierra, a planned development with 302 single-family residential parcels in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

Tillman Lane will divide the project into two separate neighborhoods, one with 8,000-square-foot and the other with 5,000-square-foot lots. A 2.5-acre site dedicated by the developer for a school could be converted for other uses, like a fire station or park.

This was the first reading for the proposal. The vote was 3-2, with commissioners Brady and Johnson dissenting.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.

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