Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/27/2010 09:35:56 PM PST

COLTON – It has been a year of uncertainty in the city and one in which shifts in the way police and fire services are delivered were proposed to close continued budget shortfalls.

This month, the City Council voted to seek the costs to outsource police, fire, code enforcement and animal control services.

That same proposal was voted down 5-2 earlier in the year.

Gary Mitchell, a planning commissioner, said the new direction was likely the result of November’s election, which changed the makeup of the council.

“This is the first time that I can remember that the majority of our City Council comes from people who have not been backed openly by our public- safety unions,” Mitchell said this month.

The council directed City Manager Rod Foster to consult with San Bernardino County administrators to learn the costs to contract with its public-safety agencies.

The council is negotiating with all labor unions and is seeking concessions to minimize layoffs that would be needed to close a $5 million shortfall. That shortfall will come when a utility-users tax expires June 30.

If the sides can’t agree on concessions, 16 police officers, nine firefighters and eight employees from other departments will be laid off, officials have said.

The idea to outsource started early this year when the council unanimously decided to hire an outside firm to audit the police and fire departments.

The audits, presented to the council in July, estimated outsourcing public-safety services or merging with neighboring fire agencies could save between $2.3 million and $8.2 million.

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