Smoke has yet to clear in fire board future | RecordCourier.com

Smoke has yet to clear in fire board future

A proposal to form an independent fire board will require a lot more information, two county commissioners told East Fork Chief Tod Carlini on Thursday.

“I’m really uncomfortable introducing a new layer of politics into the county environment,” Lynn said. “Look at the atmosphere surrounding this election for commission. Do you want that in a fire board election?”

Lynn said he was not necessarily opposed to the idea, but that he likes working with the fire district.

Commissioner Barry Penzel echoed Lynn’s concern.

“I’ve been asked about it, and I haven’t been able to offer a compelling reason to do it,” he said. “It’s not that we’ll see a significant savings in money. I’m just not convinced it’s the best thing for the county. We’re pretty responsive to the people as a commission.”

Commissioners approved a first reading of an ordinance that would set up a separate elected board for the fire district, which already has a taxing authority.

Since its founding 35 years ago, county commissioners have served as the fire board.

Unlike commissioners, though, the fire board would cover just the East Fork Township, which includes all of Douglas County outside of Lake Tahoe.

The Tahoe Douglas Fire District serves the Lake Tahoe portion of the county and has its own elected board.

Commissioner Steve Thaler pointed out that the first reading of the ordinance was where commissioners decide if it’s something they want to explore.

“I look at a first reading as saying you’re going to float the boat,” Thaler said. “I expect the chief is going to roll out why this is good for Douglas County.”

Commissioner Nancy McDermid reminded commissioners that forming a separate fire board was recommended by the grand jury and is in the county’s strategic plan.

Carlini said there is language in the ordinance that protects the emergency management function, which the county contracts with the fire district to perform.

“My goal is to make this process transparent,” he said.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for July 7. Carlini is preparing a feasibility report that would be ready before that meeting.

East Fork Fire District covers 96 percent of Douglas County’s land area, including the Carson Range and into the Tahoe Basin, according to Carlini. That portion is served by the Tahoe Douglas Fire District under contract. There are 42,000 residents in the district.

Under the plan the first members of the fire board would be appointed by county commissioners on Oct. 6. The board would then draw lots to determine who would be up for election in 2018 and who would run in 2020.

The board would be subject to the open meeting and public records laws.

East Fork Fire Protection District was formed in April 1981 to fund the original volunteer fire departments that served communities outside the Lake Tahoe basin.