Local fire service issues came once again to the forefront of county business at the White Pine County Board of Commissioners meeting March 9.

In its capacity as the county fire commission, the board votes to approve monthly payments of $3,000 to the City of Ely as part of an inter-local agreement for fire protection and emergency medical services.

Commissioner Laurie Carson voiced her opposition to the continuing payments.

“A cost per call deal would be more equitable and appropriate,” Carson said. “The volunteer fire department gets $5,000 a year and we’re paying the city $6,000 per month. It’s not appropriate to spend $6,000 a month. I just can’t find the logic in that.”

“We had an agreement with the city,” Commissioner Richard Howe said. “The cooperative gap between the city and county is widening. Working with the city was a good idea, but now it’s a moot point. I sincerely hope down the road that we become one fire department. I want to sit down with the city, but it’s not happening. $6,000 is a lot of money.”

“It’s just for the remaining couple of months,” Commissioner Mike Coster said. “It’s better to go through with it.”

“After the joint meeting, I felt pretty good,” Board Chair Gary Perea said. “We were going to create a team, but the whole atmosphere went sour. I wanted to meet with the mayor and fire chief to set some ground rules, but they opposed that. I agree a lot with Laurie, but we agreed to do it and we’re not going to have it continue after June. $6,000 a month for one call or zero calls is not equitable.

“The county has been helping the city balance its budget for years, and this is a slap in the face. I’ve had it. I’m tired of balancing the city’s accounts. County fire will respond in the city if asked.”

“A cooperative agreement is exactly that,” Commissioner Carol McKenzie said. “But the exchange of money is one-sided.”

“If we don’t go along with it, we’ll shut the door completely,” Howe added.

The commission voted to approve the payment, with Carson dissenting.

As fire commission, the board also approved the sale of a surplus 1974 fire engine to Fire Trucks Unlimited for $6,000, minus a sales commission. Those funds will be then be budgeted for equipment repair and replacement.

Two representatives from the Kinross Gold Corp.’s Bald Mountain mine also spoke. Randy Burggraff, general manager, and Jay Dixon, principal permitting engineer, came to the meeting to introduce themselves as the corporation’s liaisons to the community. Kinross is a Toronto-based mining company with operations in Brazil, Ghana, Mauritania and Russia.

“You won’t see anyone from Toronto here,” Burggraff said. “Our Siberia mine is successful, but the politics are shady. The most stable place to do business is in the good ole USA, and the best place to mine gold is in Nevada.”

Burggraff also explained the corporation’s progress in meeting requirements for the protection of sage grouse habitat.

Kinross purchased 100 percent of the Bald Mountain mine and 50 percent of the Round Mountain mine from Barrick Gold in January. Both companies continue to jointly explore and develop the area surrounding Bald Mountain in a deal worth $610 million. The corporation has earned an international reputation for environmental and social responsibility.

“You’ll see more of Kinross in local communities like Eureka and Ely,” Burggraff said.

Howe reminded the corporation of opportunities to spend its money locally.

“We’ve had mines who purchase all their supplies somewhere else,” Howe said. “We want Kinross to realize they’re mining in White Pine County and that we have vendors here.”

Angela Martin, chair of the county Water Advisory Committee asked the commission for more funding and brought up the possibility of hiring a consulting hydrogeologist to assist in updating the county’s 2006 Water Plan.

“We lack the resources to update the plan,” Martin said.

The resulting discussion centered on the county’s search for grant funding and the commission generally agreed that the county will soon require the services of a full-time natural resources professional. The commission agreed to continue to study the issue.

Airport Manager Steve Stork reported the airport needs to replace its failing emergency generator from the 1950’s at a cost of $77,000 and the commission agreed to look into different replacement options and address the issue officially at a later meeting. The commission also approved the appointment of Mitch McVicars to the county Wildlife Advisory Board.

The commission next holds its twice-monthly meeting at 9 a.m. on Mar. 23 at the County Aquatic Center.