Reno Councilman Dortch critical of Fire Labor Union

Reported by: Terri Hendry
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Updated: 6/04/2014 3:42 pm
RENO, Nev. ( & KRNV) -- Reno City Councilman Dwight Dortch is continuing to speak out against one of Reno's fire unions.

While appearing on Nevada Newsmakers, Dwight said he worries greatly about the city being able to move forward, due to "the unsustainability of these contracts." The city is in negotiations with its labor unions, including the Reno Fire Fighters Association, I.A.F.F, Local 731, as preparations are made to layoff up to 33 firefighters on July 1 after losing a federal grant.

Dortch said the union should be making concessions to save jobs, but is instead asking for raises. "They've come back and now they've asked for an 8-percent raise. So they've come to the table, instead of going in the other direction saying, 'hey, we want to save firefighters,' they've come back to us and said, 'no, I want an 8-percent raise,' which is going to cost us another 15 firefighters."

Dortch told viewers most of the city's budget is comprised of labor costs. "Eighty-five percent of our budget is people, so the money's got to come from somewhere."

The union is suing the city to try and block the lay-offs. Dortch said one of the arguments is the city has an ending fund balance and therefore has the money to pay for the firefighting positions.

"They're saying the money's there because we have an ending fund balance so you shouldn't have to lay-off people and you should give us raises," Dortch said. "We have to have an ending fund balance because of state law. If we keep the minimum, then we have a cash flow problem throughout the year."

"There are times, just because of the way tax revenues come in, that the taxes are higher or lower during the year," explained Dortch. "But we still have to pay our bills so we have to keep our ending fund balance where during the low times we can make our payments."

Dortch believes firefighters are already wel- compensated.  "Local 731 makes about $129,000 per year. When you consider that it's for life, medical, heart and lung compensation, it's a little more than $150,000 per year it costs the city."

"Typically you can come in, and start working when you're 20, you work 25 years, then you can retire at 45 and you can draw a pension and medical for the rest of your life. You're going to draw your medical and pension for longer than you worked."

The Ward 4 Councilmember was asked what he believes is a long-term solution if labor contracts are unsustainable as he suggests. He said he supports turning some fire service functions over to private companies.

For example, he supports paying REMSA, the city's private ambulance service, for manning two of the city's closed fire stations to provide medical support. "If we are going to do that in house, and we're not allowed to do that by contract, run a two-man medical unit, it would cost us $1 million. REMSA could do it for $450,000, which is less than half our costs."

Dortch notes it is an election year, and he worries the next Mayor may not have enough experience to lead the city through what he sees are labor challenges. When asked if he planned to endorse any of the candidates, he responded, "What I've taken on as my position on fire, I think some of the candidates don't necessarily want to be associated with me right now."

The Reno Fire Fighters Association President did not return calls for a response.
7 Comment(s)
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ARC1111 - 6/5/2014 1:16 AM
0 Votes
75-90% of firefighters get their jobs due to nepotism or racial quotas, depending on the city/state/county etc. I've lived in several states/towns/city's, and every time there is a opening, there are thousands of applicants for a few jobs, so STOP SAYING THEY DO JOBS NO ONE ELSE WILL!!! They are the lucky ones who for the most part get on the job training(no student loans) and govt pensions, plus they are NOT fighting fires 56 hours a week.

union yes - 6/4/2014 11:49 PM
3 Votes
Why is this even a story? Duh...NEWSFLASH...a bargaining unit would like to recover the wages that they have given up over the past few years. As far as being overpaid, Reno firefighters earn $22.28 per hour at top step. They are not even close to the highest paid in this state. There are at least 4 professional fire departments in Northern Nevada and all of the professional fire departments in Southern Nevada pay higher wages. As far as the legal proceedings go, that process will play out in court and or through the grievance process. Doesn't matter what any of us have to say about it, that ship has sailed and the court will rule on those issues. But what I do find perplexing is Councilman Dortch's unhealthy fascination with the firefighters of IAFF Local 731. What is he trying to accomplish? Why would he quote inaccurate numbers for what a firefighter costs the city of Reno? He said each costs the city over $150,000 which is factually incorrect. Each of the 33 soon to be laid off employees run about $123,000 in wages and benefits. Why would he falsely inflate that number by about 20% for each employee? I believe that his wage and benefits cost the city approximately $118,000 for his part-time job. I am pretty sure that he worked far fewer hours last year than did these firefighters who cost the city about the same as Councilman Dortch did. Just some food for thought.

Bling - 6/4/2014 8:53 PM
2 Votes
If you would like to ask any question & get an HONEST you go!

One Horse Town - 6/4/2014 5:29 PM
4 Votes
I am amazed that anybody give Dortch a microphone anywhere. If you look at transparent Nevada, Dortch costs the taxpayer more than the median firefighter and only for a 'part-time' job.... Thank god he didn't work the 56 hours a week the firefighters do, or the city would be over $1 Billion in debt. As it is, we have over 550 Million dollars in debt thanks to him and his cronies. Stop giving this failed fool anymore time to divert our attention. Go talk to your local firefighter, the city has failed to protect us. They can't even buy new equipment, credit rating too bad. We have issues Reno, our public safety is in jeopardy. We can all thank this fool.

Nevada - 6/4/2014 5:14 PM
3 Votes
Firefighters work long hours (56 per week), work all holidays, give up family events, and most cases make about $25 per hour (some more some less). They work hard at their jobs. They risk their health and see things that most wouldn't want to. It's sad that Dortch has such a large megaphone. Why now, you ask? He is clearly trying to turn public opinion against the firefighters during negotiations. Per Nevada Law 288, Dortch is engaged in illegal activity. But Dortch has always been loose with the truth.

deschutes - 6/4/2014 4:46 PM
0 Votes
Shouldn't a poll asking whether firefighters are overpaid have actual numbers like their hourly wage? I know politicians typically say nothing but the truth (dripping with sarcasm) but how about a few facts from news 4 so we can have a reference. How many hours per week do they work? How much do they make per hour?

freedomrings - 6/4/2014 4:20 AM
3 Votes
These trashy unions are destroying this country. Too many free pay checks " pension checks ".

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