Fire chiefs, city managers should communicate better, lawmakers say

CARSON CITY — Fire chiefs in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas should meet for coffee with their city managers instead of asking the Legislature to change city charters, two state lawmakers said Monday.

Assembly members John Ellison, R-Elko, and Pete Livermore, R-Carson City, told Rusty McAllister, president of the Professional Firefighters of Nevada, that Assembly Bill 420 would be unnecessary if city and fire officials sat down regularly to discuss concerns.

“The city manager and fire chief and I every Friday would go down somewhere and have coffee,” said Ellison, who served a long career in local government before being elected to the Legislature. “We had a weekly dialogue.”

Livermore, a former Carson City supervisor, agreed that fire chiefs in the two cities need to communicate better with their city managers.

They were the only legislators to give opinions on the bill during an Assembly Government Affairs Committee hearing. The bill, sought by union firefighters, would amend the charters in both cities to allow local fire chiefs to communicate directly with members of the city councils. Now the fire chiefs must communicate through city managers, who then speak to the city councils. The committee must approve the bill by Friday, or it will be considered dead.

McAllister said the concerns of the fire chiefs are often “filtered” or not taken to the city councils at all by city managers.

Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin, a former legislator, disagreed, contending the fire chief and any firefighter can come to him and council members anytime and express their concerns.

“I hear the griping,” he said. “No one has said they cannot see us. This bill is not necessary.”

Cofffin added that he and council members were not told about the bill until it was introduced a couple of weeks ago and that the bill has “bad timing” because it comes as the city is engaged in collective bargaining with the union.

McAllister called Ellison’s suggestion a “great idea” that he hopes can be accomplished, now that the union brought the problem to the Legislature.

North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck said it makes no sense to amend the charter. There would be “total chaos” if the fire department were run by “five bosses,” meaning members of the City Council, she said.

“That’s why we work through a city manager.”

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