Regents close UNR Fire Academy
ELKO – The Nevada Board of Regents voted Friday to close the University of Nevada, Reno’s debt-laden Fire Science Academy in Elko County by Dec. 31.
University President Marc Johnson recommended the closure, saying the 12-year-old fire academy that sits along U.S. Interstate 80 east of Carlin was not financially sustainable. The non-degree training program’s 28 employees are all expected to lose their jobs and closing the academy will likely cost the state $4 million.
The program’s downfall was largely financial. It carried a $24.5 million capital debt and an $11.8 million operating deficit.
“This marks a difficult, yet necessary decision point,” said Johnson. “While the financial performance has improved, the reality is that it does not generate sufficient revenue to provide for needed debt relief.”
Johnson said university officials tried, but could not come up with a sustainable finance plan to keep the academy open.
The Nevada National Guard wants to buy the site 250 miles east ofReno. That $10 million land deal is expected to be finalized by early next year. The Board of Regents has already approved the sale.
The decision to close the 426-acre academy was long coming.
An ad hoc advisory council chaired by the late former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn urged the university and regents to close the academy in 2008, citing financial concerns.
But business leaders in rural Elko County had lobbied to save the facility, citing its ability to bring in waves of new visitors every few weeks. The academy filled 8,000 hotel rooms at its peak.
A $6.50 per-credit fee charged to university students to pay for the academy will still be used to pay down the remaining capital debt after the land sale. Some of the money will also be redirected toward campus constructionprojects.