Firefighter layoffs dominate budget talks

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Firefighter layoffs dominate budget talks

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Reno City Hall

On Wednesday, the debate over how to prevent the layoff of firefighters continues at Reno City Hall during a second budget meeting.

This was the second and final budget meeting for the city council, but the cutbacks in the fire department dominated the discussion.

Council Members were told they now had the option of keeping two additional firefighters by diverting revenue from another fund. That would bring down the layoffs from 35 to 33 firefighters. Most council members seemed supportive. Dwight Dortch, who's been adamant about his frustration with the union, was not.

"To fund these two positions doesn't help us from a public safety standpoint. We can't open another fire station, we aren't providing any additional services to the public, we're just hiring two additional firefighters," Dortch says.

While the two positions wouldn't prevent the closure of three stations, they'd act as floaters and help cut down on overtime costs. Dortch says the city should put any money toward stationing an ambulance near one of the empty stations, instead. The council will decide on that before they adopt the budget later this month.

Later on, Council Member Jenny Brekhus went outside of the city manager's recommendations and offered her own solution: take almost $2 million that currently goes to the Regional Transportation Commission and use that to retain 16 more firefighters, at least for another year.

"I think we're going to be putting the community at risk this drought season, with 12 or 13 firefighters, I think that could make a difference," Brekhus says.

Only one other council member supported the idea. All others said it would push Reno's already low level of funding for streets down to just $600,000. The city estimates it needs upwards of $14 million to adequately fund its roads. At the meeting, the council also voted in favor of significantly decreasing planning fees. They're currently way above average in Reno and the city hope the loss in revenue will be offset by more small business activity.