UNR proposing to close the Carlin Fire Science Academy | NevadaAppeal.com
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UNR proposing to close the Carlin Fire Science Academy

The University of Nevada, Reno, is planning to ask regents to shut down the Carlin Fire Science Academy in eastern Nevada.

UNR President Marc Johnson said the plan to sell the financially strapped academy to the Nevada National Guard is still moving forward and should be finalized within months.

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 the university as well as to eastern Nevada, where the academy is located. It didn’t work out that way and, in the end, UNR was saddled with bond debt for the center totaling almost $26 million.

“It is disappointing to have arrived at this juncture,” Johnson said.

The academy still has a $24 million capital debt and $12 million in operating debt. A significant share of that debt is being paid by a $6.50-per-credit fee tacked on to student classroom costs. That fee has been a sore spot with students, who say they get no benefit from the academy and have seen significant per-credit cost increases during the past few years.

Once the sale to the guard is finalized, $4 of that fee will be freed up for projects that benefit students including renovation of the old Getchell Library building and upgrades at the Lombardi Recreation Center.

“The legacy debt has plagued the Fire Science Academy for many years,” Johnson said.

He said staff has developed a program at the academy that is recognized worldwide, and UNR records show that the academy actually finished the last fiscal year with a positive balance of nearly $100,000.

“However, the reality is the financial performance does not provide for needed debt relief,” he said.

His recommendation will be to close most of the academy at the end of the year, keeping only a few classroom programs. If the academy closes, its 28 employees would most likely be laid off.

UNR Vice President for Finance Ron Zurek told regents in June that the guard is expected to pay about $10 million to reduce the debt and UNR will put in about $4 million in institutional funds, leaving bond debt of about $11 million.

Guard officials want an eastern Nevada readiness center and had planned to build one in Elko. State Lands Administrator Jim Lawrence told state officials in June that it’s a good deal for all the parties.

The guard gets an eastern Nevada readiness center for much less than the $26 million the Elko center would cost, and UNR gets out from under the bulk of its debt.

Regents are scheduled to consider the request at their Dec. 1-2 meeting.