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KUNR Today: Sparks Firefighters union calls for removal of Sparks Fire Department’s chief

A close-up of a truck with the City of Sparks Fire Department logo printed on the driver’s side door.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Nevada to receive $94 million from federal spending package for community projects
By Lucia Starbuck

More than 50 community projects across Nevada will receive funding from the federal spending package just passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.

Among the projects, $2 million will go to the Desert Research Institute for studying climate change, $1.3 million for equipment replacement for first responders in Sparks and $2 million for water treatment upgrades in Carson City.

The entire Nevada congressional delegation voted for the $1.5 trillion bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Sparks Firefighters union calls for the removal of the fire chief
By Lucia Starbuck

The City of Sparks said it’s looking into allegations made against the Sparks Fire Department’s chief. Among other complaints, union firefighters are accusing Jim Reid of mismanaging funds and causing physical and emotional distress.

Members of the Sparks chapter of the International Association of Firefighters released a long list of grievances against Reid.

During public comment at the Sparks City Council meeting on Monday, union president Darren Jackson said staffing is not keeping up with the city’s growing population, there’s not enough personnel to respond to calls in a timely manner and responders are working too much overtime.

“I’m extremely worried about the safety of our citizens of Sparks and for my sisters and brothers in the fire department,” Jackson said.

In a written response, Reid said he cares deeply about the department, and he’s disappointed union representatives shut down communication and aired their frustrations publicly.

Sparks mayor and city manager say they have full confidence in the fire chief, but Mayor Ed Lawson said the city is “vetting the information they provided to get the whole truth.”

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam files for re-election
By Lucia Starbuck

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam has filed for re-election. The first-term sheriff touted his accomplishments in a Facebook post and called being sheriff the greatest single honor of his life. So far, no one has filed to run against him, and the deadline to file is Friday.

NDOW adds trout to Sparks Marina, other local ponds
By Lucia Starbuck

The Nevada Department of Wildlife recently added 3,300 rainbow trout to the Sparks Marina. The fish are from the Mason Valley Hatchery in Yerington. The department has also begun stocking ponds in Washoe Valley, Reno, Carson City and Gardnerville. It’s adding tens of thousands of trout throughout western Nevada ponds for fishing.

Report examines effects of radioactive waste dumped at uranium mill near Bears Ears National Monument
By Emma Gibson, Mountain West News Bureau

White Mesa is a Ute Mountain Ute tribal community next to the last functioning uranium mill in the U.S.

A new report from the conservation nonprofit Grand Canyon Trust says the White Mesa Mill stores over 700 million pounds of radioactive waste. They say it threatens the people of Utah, their air and water.

The tribe’s chairman, Manuel Heart, says he’s taken a glass of tap water from the community to former governors of Utah.

“It was a grayish color and had the smell of a boiled egg. We took it to them and said, ‘Would you drink this, sir?’ ” Heart said.

Mill owner Energy Fuels did not respond immediately for comment. On its website, the company president says they work hard to minimize impacts to the environment.

Some Indigenous activists say they want stricter regulations for the mill. Others want the mill to close and the land reclaimed.

Vail Resorts plans to increase wages, offer affordable housing
By Dave Rosenthal, Mountain West News Bureau

The high cost of living in resort towns has fueled disputes over pay. Earlier this year, ski patrol members at Vail’s Park City Utah resort threatened to strike, but they reached an agreement with the company.

This week, Vail CEO Kirsten Lynch told workers that the minimum hourly wage will increase to $20 in the next ski season. Some workers, like the ski patrol, will make more.

Lynch also said the company wants to build affordable housing on property it owns — or lease more units in existing developments.

Vail Resorts is an industry giant whose properties include Beaver Creek in Colorado and Heavenly in Nevada.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

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