The Ely Times

When you ask several residents around the county about a mutal aid agreement between the City and County, the consensus is the same, the Fire Mutual Aid Agreement between the City and County has been a 40 plus year battle.  

The White Pine County Commission dismissed its regular meeting to hold a Special Fire Commission meeting. Although the item was for discussion only, the meeting was packed with more than 40 people in attendance waiting their turn to speak during public comment.  

The item? To consider the City of Ely’s proposal for Fire/EMS Automatic Aid.  

The agreement between the city and county expired last year on June 30. The city council created a new agreement, and sent it over to the commission for approval.  

Mark Bassett, executive director for the Nevada Northern Railway, said,  “Once upon a time we would go out with 120 passengers, Now, on a good day we could have 600-plus visitors riding the train. The railroad cuts between the city and the county, and interestingly enough is that the city borders with the county on Avenue C in the center of track. 

“It would be nice if this issue could be addressed that if a situation happens in the city or county someone responds immediately.” 

More than 10 other people spoke during public, many who were county residents, volunteer firefighters, and paid fire personnel. Several spoke about how they opposed the city’s proposal. Many spoke about all entities working together. Mutual aid should be just that, mutual. 

District Attorney Mike Wheable spoke up between public comment. He said, “I want to clarify in my understanding of this agreement the city absolutely does not want and cannot respond to the outlining areas, they need those volunteer stations to stay open, that has never been their intent.

“They’re talking about dispatching the city to incidents on the highway. There has been a lot said about that, so I want to clarify that, volunteer stations are not going to close down.” 

Travis Godon, vice chairman of the county commission, had to leave for another meeting so he spoke giving his input on the situation.  

“This agreement doesn’t make financial sense for us, but I do think it’s an opener on what we can do for the community,” eh said. “Fights have been going on for years, and we need to fix it, we need to be collaborative as the city and county and not keep building this wall because it only gets worse. Leveler heads need to prevail and get something in place that improves the safety and security of this community.”

White Pine County Fire Chief Tim Regan spoke during public comment talking about how he took the job 120 days ago, and never thought there would be as many challenges as there are with this mutual aid topic. 

Commissioner Steve Stork abstained from giving his input. He said, “Not knowing what way this contract will go, I’m going to abstain from giving my input” even though it’s clear from the Ethics Commission that he could. 

“I am absolutely against the proposal,” he said. “I guess was bothers me about this, as it sits right now, I think we just heard our chief say, the county is not refusing to respond. I have heard countless stories that if there is an incident at Blue Diamond, the city won’t respond.  I agree with a lot of what’s been said.  

“This doesn’t have to be complicated. I would love to see a one page, not a 30-page agreement, that just says we will help you, you help us, we’ll help anyone that needs help and if there is a cost incurred we can worth that out later,” Ian Bullis said

Commissioner Shane Bybee gave his input on the topic.  “First and foremost as far as information we have that the public isn’t privy too, we have a proposal that is in the packet from the City of Ely.  

“The consolidation of services right here by Ely has been a hot button since I started in this game 20 years ago.  It is my feeling that we do need to look one way or the in consolidating the city and county services.  It makes no sense to me to have two huge facilities with over redundant equipment that are five miles apart, and I think one way or the other we need to consolidate the two and work effectively.  I think we need to seriously consider the options of combing those services and cost savings.  I think the proposal is not effective, I think if we want to consider a proposal it needs to include numbers of personnel, apparatus, how we’re going to combine those.  We work on building up our volunteer stations that it’s a reachable attainable goal.  I would like to encourage the city to make some revisions with more realistic options, and if we can get a proposal that’s going to work, but if not we need to work on a proposal to present. “ 

Chairman of the Commission Richard Howe explained how he’s been a commissioner for six years now and he’s seen a agreement every year. He noted there was a mutual aid agreement in place until June 30, last year.  

“I received a letter from the city stating that the city fire department would no longer respond to any incidents outside of city limits, and I about blew my stack.  But that was it, we got no time. 

The Ely Times researched back to that letter, and the letter was produced after a city council meeting on June 28 where the Fire and EMS issue was on a city council agenda. Posting for this meeting was five days before that.  

Howe went on to talk about the City of Ely and the proposal. 

“This proposal they have given us would have costed the county $275,000,” he said. “When I moved back years ago, I couldn’t believe the divide.  Why? One entity. We can agree on roads, animal control, we agree on landfill, the swimming pools. We agree on police protection. 

“There are people on both sides that fight every issue we come to the table with.  Bringing the two units into one, with the blocking, and continual blocking, it’s not the volunteers, it’s at the top. This is the sixth time I’ve gone through this, and in about a weeks time they’ll tear it up again.  This is one community, our kids swim together, go to school together, what with all the agreements we work together, but this one is a political football and it’s ridiculous.”

In other items on the commission’s agenda, Godon requested  on the agenda for approval to draft a letter to the Nevada Attorney General’s office in opposition of the lawsuit against the Trump Administration over the declared National Emergency on the border wall construction and funding.  

“I think it’s important to draft this letter. Mr. Attorney General doesn’t speak for the whole state on this issue. I think we should be vocal and have our voice out there,” Godon said. 

Stork explained he thought the issue should be weighed in on. 

“I know we have some vested interest in being friendly to the group, but I don’t think we need to roll over and play dead,” he said.

Howe talked about how the attorney general has the right to file whatever lawsuit he feels he needs to. Although Howe did question whether the commission should be speaking for the entire community. In the end, the commission approved to prepare a draft letter.