UNR may stop fire science academy payments unless repairs made

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The University of Nevada, Reno could stop payments on its purchase of the Fire Science Academy at Carlin unless $2 million to $3 million in repairs are made, a university lawyer says.

''If they don't fix it up, that is an option we will consider,'' said Tom Ray, chief counsel for the University and Community College System of Nevada.

Ray added Wednesday he already spoke with All Star Investments of Sacramento, Calif., about the repairs needed to reopen the academy for professional firefighters.

The investment company put up $27 million to build the academy for UNR. The facility was built by Clark & Sullivan Constructors of Sparks. UNR pays $230,000 a month to All Star under a 20-year lease-purchase contract.

UNR President Joe Crowley announced Monday that he's closing most of the academy until March so that repairs could be completed on a liquid capture system.

Oil used in practice fires has been seeping into the groundwater. Most academy students are employees at oil refineries who get firsthand experience in fighting petroleum fires.

Rick Oshinski, a Carson City lawyer who represents All Star, said the company has investigators in Carlin determining what must be done.

He speculated UNR has been using the liquid capture system in excess of its capacity.

An oil-water separation system was designed to handle 1,200 to 1,700 gallons of liquid a minute and the Fire Science Academy has exceeded that capacity, according to Oshinski.

That separation system was designed by UNR in consultation with Clark & Sullivan, and All Star had nothing to do with the design, Oshinski said.

While Clark & Sullivan built the academy and liquid capture system, Ray said UNR's contract is only with All Star - and if the company won't make the repairs, the university may back out of the contract entirely.

The Fire Science Academy has turned into a cash drain for UNR. Analysts at a June regents' meeting projected losses would reach $9 million before the academy starts making money in 2005.


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