How many of Truckee’s police and fire response personnel live locally?
We definitely went through a good stint where we had the majority of our staff, 60% or 70%, living in Truckee. The cost and availability of housing is certainly one thing that’s problematic [for officers living locally]. We’re really in a tight spot with that because we tend to draw lateral officers, people who have experience in other areas, people who got the core fun of police work out of their system and now are more community based. And they tend to come here after they have had six, seven, eight years on, with a family. If we were hiring a lot of brand-new officers, I’d probably have more that live in the area because they could find roommates or in-law cottages. There’s more housing in that arena.
But I’m hiring family officers and you need 2,000 or 1,500 square feet and it’s just not out there. So we’ve definitely seen the numbers trend toward Reno more than anywhere else. If we’re just looking at police officers, it’s about 20% [that live locally]; if we’re talking all staff it jumps to about 40%. We have a lot of peripheral staff in the civilian ranks that do live in town.
So how much does that impact their ability to understand the community that they serve? And it does. There’s no way you can argue it doesn’t because they’re not living in [the community] and being around it. But with the application of contemporary law enforcement services and having genuine care for the work they do, it doesn’t make a difference. They still have care and concern, they still want to do a good job, they still are here for the right reasons. They just might not understand some of the little nuances because they don’t live, eat, breathe [here], and go to Safeway every day. That’s the downside; the positive side is it also gives them a break. They don’t develop that cynicism [by living and serving in the same community].
~ Robert Leftwich, Truckee police chief
Including our part-time and full-time employees — not including board members — of on-duty firefighters working, we have 55 total. Of that 55, 56% of them live in Truckee, that’s 31 out of the total. There’s 25% that live out in Reno, and 16% that live in other areas including Loyalton, Sierra Valley, Sierra foothills, and the Sacramento/Lincoln area. Twenty-eight of our 55 employees are Truckee High graduates.
When we are selecting for employment, it’s highly encouraged and a priority that employment goes to local residents. We find that local residents as employees bring a lot to the table as far as area orientation and already being a part of this community. That’s a pretty major value for us that we weigh heavily on when we’re seeking new applicants.
~ Nick Brown, public information officer, Truckee Fire Protection District
We do have a lot of commuters, and the thing that’s driving folks out of here, obviously, is the cost of living and work[ing] here in the community. It gets a little difficult when some of the guys and gals are younger and starting families and wanting to have a house.
I’ve been here for about 20 years and the department used to be very local in that there was not as much staffing as we have now and we relied heavily on part-timers and volunteers to respond back to the station or actually go to calls. That has gone by the wayside, and we’ve upped our staffing levels and increased the amount of fire stations that we have. So our response is better for the community, but at the same time, we don’t respond from our homes that much anymore especially because people don’t live in the area.
With our population building, with all the commercial structures, with all the people that come here, with all the special events that we have, with the ski areas growing … the amount of people that we have can stress the district as far as calls. On one weekend, we can have an increase of 400,000 people here in our town. We service a huge area of over 100 square miles so we, Truckee Fire, will respond up on the summit to Sugar Bowl Ski Area, Donner Ski Ranch, North Star, out into the wild areas where people cross country ski, hike, or climb. It’s a lot of varied calls.
This career actually affords that kind of commute not being horrible in that when [a firefighter] comes onto a shift at 8 a.m., they are on shift and at their station for 48 hours so they don’t have to commute every day, and then they’re off work for four days. We eat here, we work together, we run the station, and we actually have bunk dorm-style sleeping arrangements so that if a call comes in the middle of the night all the crew is ready to go.
[We also provide] housing [in] three residential fire stations for our employees. We have some long-term people in the Tahoe Donner residential fire station, we have one down at Donner Lake, and we have one up on Donner Summit. It’s affordable housing for mostly career and part-time employees and we even have one that’s empty right now. That helps us out because if an incident happens in that community, we love it if our person can show up to assess what’s going on and call out what resources are needed so somebody can get there quickly. One person probably isn’t going to run the entire call, but it’s helpful to have more manpower in those areas, and they already have a piece of equipment.
~ Laura Brown, battalion chief, Truckee Fire Protection District (soon to be public information officer)
What’s the update on the old Incline Village Elementary site?
The property on Southwood Boulevard operated as a K-2 for years before it was shut down in 2009 when the elementary school moved up to the new school that came into existence. Over the course of the years since, the Washoe County School District has had public meetings with not only the community, but also with Incline Village General Improvement District in particular. IVGID was the main interested party in this parcel, so we worked with them for a number of years, working out how they could acquire it. When a public agency either sells or gives a public property to another public agency, it’s a lot easier on the NRS, the Nevada Revised Statutes, so it’s an easier process. Plus, it fulfills the public good, like how a school benefits the public.
The property appraised at $2.35 million, but was offered to IVGID for $2 million, an agreed upon amount between them and the [school district] board of trustees and administration. They said, “Well, we’ll sell this to IVGID for less than the appraised value because they will continue in the public good.” The assumption was that IVGID would use it for a park or another community use. Yet IVGID chose not to buy it. It’s their right to vote not to do that. From what I understand, I think IVGID got some pushback from their board members not wanting to put that much money into a new property.
[After IVGID declined the sale] school staff took a resolution of intent to sell for the Incline property forward to our board of trustees, and they approved it on Aug. 13. That allows us now to receive bids; any interested brokers or buyers or developers can send us sealed bids. There’s a second meeting required by state law for the board to open these in a public meeting. We had a meeting scheduled for the middle of September.
But before the meeting happened, the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) got in touch with our board president, Katy Simon Holland, and expressed interest in acquiring that site from us and developing it as a transportation hub.
The TTD leases and uses the site already for the Sand Harbor shuttle during the summertime. They allow people to park there and provide a park ‘n’ ride. Now they’re interested in acquiring the piece and developing it as a complete transportation hub! So we’re giving them about a month or so. We’re holding off on all the other bidders — all the private bidders. TTD is working to come up with the funds with their partners, NDOT [Nevada Department of Transportation], Washoe County Parks & Rec, and others. Even Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Nevada State Parks weighed in. If that group, led by TTD, can come up with the $2 million, we more than likely will move forward and work with them directly.
That’s where we are right now. If that falls through for whatever reason, we’re probably going to go back to the private developers. We’ll have another public meeting, open these bids and people will come with plans of condos, houses, open spaces, or all kinds of stuff could happen.
More than likely there would be public pushback on some of those options, which is why our board wants to see what they can do to work with a public agency first to support the community. It’s a 6.41-acre property; it’s not huge. The existing building, which has asbestos and some lead components, would take close to $1 million to demolish. What TTD has talked about is a place where people can park and ride to other locations, and they may have other plans for a community center next to that.
~ Mike Boster, school planner for the Washoe County School District