Indebted fire science academy set to close

CARSON CITY — Facing a debt of
$36 million, the Fire Science Academy in Carlin will be closed Dec. 31 by the University of Nevada, Reno, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

The academy employs 28 people.

“It is disappointing to have arrived at this juncture,” UNR President Marc Johnson said Monday, adding that he explored options for the academy before coming to the realization it should be closed. “However, the reality is the financial performance does not provide for needed debt relief.”

Closure of the academy, along Interstate 80 just west of Elko, will be considered by regents during their Dec. 1-2 meeting in Las Vegas.

At present, the academy, operated by UNR, carries a $24 million capital debt and a $12 million operating debt. To cover the debt, UNR students have been paying $6.50 per credit in additional fees.

If the pending sale of the property to the Nevada National Guard is completed, then $4 of the per credit cost can be redirected to support student-oriented, on-campus capital projects. Still, $2.50 per credit would continue to be applied to the debt.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee agreed last year to spend $8 million in state funds to buy the 460 acres at the academy site for use as a National Guard readiness center. That expenditure was contingent on federal National Guard officials spending
$8 million on the site. The Guard had anticipated taking over the site earlier this year.

The academy operated with much fanfare as a center to train professional firefighters from across the nation. But it proved difficult to attract firefighters to the remote site 20 miles west of Elko, particularly because of the lack of regular airline service.

Before he died, UNR President Milton Glick said in an interview in December that the credit fee had become “a very sore point for students and everybody else.”

The academy had been built during the administration of UNR President Joe Crowley. A profitable, but smaller academy at Stead, north of Reno, was closed to facilitate the move to Carlin.

As early as 2000, UNR officials said the academy lost $3 million in the previous fiscal year.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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