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Guard to take over training center

The University of Nevada, Reno is within a few days of completing a deal that gets the Fire Science Academy off the backs of UNR students.

The Board of Examiners approved on Tuesday a deal transferring ownership of the academy in Carlin to the Nevada National Guard. UNR Vice President for Finance Ron Zurek said the campus will then lease space back at the facility to continue operating the Fire Science Academy.

When it was built more than a decade ago, the academy was touted as a national training center for firefighters that would be an economic boon to eastern Nevada as well as the university. It didn’t work out that way and, in the end, UNR was saddled with bond debt for the center totaling almost $26 million.

To pay that debt off, then-UNR President John Lilly imposed a $6.50 per credit hour surcharge. Students objected strongly to paying off the Fire Science Academy, pointing out that they receive no benefit from it.

Zurek said selling the academy to the Guard generates about $10 million to pay down that debt. In addition, he said UNR will put in about $4 million in institutional funds, leaving just over

$11 million to pay.

He said that means the per credit charge to UNR students dedicated to the Fire Science Academy will be reduced to $2 per credit.

He said the $4.50 per credit freed up will then become available for projects that benefit the students.

“We’ll talk with the students and ask them what they might want to do,” said Zurek.

The final step in the process happens Friday when the legislative Interim Finance Committee is scheduled to give final approval to the land transfer. After that, the Guard needs to wait for release of the $2 million federal share of its payment to UNR and the deal is complete.

State Lands Administrator Jim Lawrence told the Board of Examiners the deal is good for all parties involved. The Guard gets an eastern Nevada readiness facility for much less money than the $26 million Elko project originally proposed and UNR gets out from under the bulk of its debt yet retains leased space to operate the Fire Science Academy.

In addition, the board voted to add one more officer to the governor’s security detail. Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said the increase is needed because, unlike Gov. Jim Gibbons, Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval and his wife have children who will be with them in the mansion.

The total for the added officer’s salary, equipment, benefits and other costs is $103,855 through the end of the fiscal year.

Finally, the board approved a $200,000 settlement with four male correctional workers assigned to the Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in North Las Vegas. Clinger said the men sued after a job posting issued at the prison said only female applicants would be considered. They said that unfairly denied them the chance for advancement and higher pay.