Reno might lay off 35 firefighters after grant denied


RENO — As many as 35 Reno city firefighters might lose their jobs because of the loss of federal grant money, officials said Tuesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration notified the city Monday that its grant application was rejected, and officials began planning for layoffs, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

Since last year, the city had relied on a $14 million SAFER grant to fund 64 positions. The money had prevented mass layoffs after the deconsolidation of the Reno and Washoe County fire departments.

City Manager Andrew Clinger called the grant rejection disappointing, but added the city is committed to providing a high level of public safety services.

“We knew this was a possibility, and we’ve been working on a restructuring plan for some time to ensure the continued safety of our citizens,” Clinger said.

In an email to city employees, Fire Chief Michael Hernandez said layoff notices will be sent May 1, with terminations to take effect July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Dennis Jacobsen, president of the Reno Fire Fighters Local 731, said the union will meet with city administrators to discuss options for reducing the number of layoffs.

“We will do everything we can to protect our younger firefighters,” Jacobsen said, noting the union doesn’t make the financial decisions for the city.

“They’re the ones who put the city in this financial crunch and they will have to answer to the public for it,” he said.

The Fire Department will have to juggle resources, and three stations will be subject to rotating closures.

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell said he’s confident the city will still be able to provide adequate firefighting coverage.

“We will still take care of Reno,” he said. “We’ve got stations close enough to do the proper response times.”

News of the grant denial comes just days after Cashell and other city officials reached out to two county commissioners in an attempt to begin discussing a new regional fire service.

In July 2011, the commission decided to dissolve its decade-old contract with the city to provide fire services and create its own fire department. It passed a new property tax assessment to fund the new department.

 

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