Article Archive
A Fire Still Burns
Decision on Nevada Fire Academy postponed until February
Volume 24, No. 1

Financially strapped but still in operation, the Fire Science Academy near Elko, NV, is not waiting for a bailout to solve their problems. A two-month postponement on a final decision about closing the academy has given FSA more time to explore alternatives that will keep the doors open.

"This delay is very positive since it allows the dialogue and planning to continue," said Denise Baclawski, FSA executive director.

At the request of Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education delayed taking action Dec. 5 on a financial sustainability plan. Instead, the board authorized an additional 60 days for exploration of a potential partnership to rescue FSA.

On the table is a proposal that would allow the Nevada National Guard to share the facility. Congress has allocated about $11.5 million to build a new National Guard Readiness Center in Elko.

University of Nevada, Reno president Milton Glick has been talking to top Gibbons aides and the head of the Nevada National Guard to determine if the Guard would benefit from co-locating its Elko readiness center with the academy.

Regents had been slated to review a financial sustainability plan developed by a consortium of stakeholders and community leaders detailing short-term and long-term planning aimed at shoring up the finances of the school and growing revenue to a point of financial sustainability.

A decision on closing the academy in response to a state budget crisis had been postponed from earlier in the year to allow FSA supporters to pursue possible funding partnerships with industry. FSA owes $27.1 million in long-term capital debt and $12 million in accumulated operating and construction deficits.

"Our financial sustainability plan produced by the task force is important in achieving the long term financial sustainability we need," Baclawski said. "It would eliminate operating losses, build a capital replacement fund and help make payments toward our debt service."

The National Guard proposal would assist in offsetting operating costs, she said.

"There would be some shared costs, I'm sure," Baclawski said. "Also, they would be using some facilities that we don't use to full capacity right now."

Granting an additional 60 days gives the National Guard time to study the proposal and work their way through the various details, she said.

"The governor believes this will be a win-win opportunity for everyone," Baclawski said. "He was concerned that the regents might make a decision based solely on the financial sustainability plan, so he asked them to delay their decision until the Guard finished their work."

On the negative side, the extension still makes it difficult for clients trying to schedule training without a final solution, she said.

"We are going forward," Baclawski said. "We just can't continue in limbo. Our plan is to be here next year. We're booking classes and making plans. We are implementing the parts of the financial sustainability plan that we can."

As called for in the plan, on Jan. 1 FSA is raising tuition on various classes.

"Every class will have a different increase," Baclawski said. "Some may not have any increase at all. But most will have anywhere from $25 to $200 increases in tuition."

Industrial clients are making a substantial commitment to the sustainability plan which calls for corporate giving to the tune of $2 million.

"Overall, the commitment has been that they want us to be here," Baclawski said. "They value the services we provide. They don't want a monopoly to exist in industrial fire training. They are willing to pay in the short term to help us bridge this gap."


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