Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/16/2012 03:15:53 PM PDT

Special Section: San Bernardino

SAN BERNARDINO -Two very different proposals for how to cut spending in the Fire Department will be on the table Monday, one of several items on the agenda that has fueled controversy at past meetings.

Backers of each plan say the other would be unsafe, but administrators say major cuts to the department – along with other discussions expected Monday – are needed to help the city get closer to filling a $45.8 million budget gap that was a major reason it filed for bankruptcy Aug. 1.

The City Council approved 30 percent reductions to most departments Sept. 4 based on recommendations from the head of each department.

But Acting Fire Chief Paul Drasil’s proposal was unacceptable, largely because it included leaving firefighter positions vacant and browning out three of the least-used fire stations – rotating 48-hour closures, for a total of 10 days a month on average – said Councilman Chas Kelley.

Kelley presented an alternative cuts plan, known to opponents as the union plan because rank-and-file firefighters played a large role in crafting it, that included administrative cuts. Three other council members said they preferred Kelley’s plan, making a majority.

Drasil said at the previous meeting that parts of Kelley’s plan were “unworkable,” but he would need more time to examine it. He said Thursday that he would continue analyzing the plan through the weekend and would present a slightly modified version of his original plan, but he couldn’t comment further because he wasn’t done and Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller told him to wait until the meeting.

Travis-Miller was also unavailable late last week.

Kelley said he would listen to Drasil, but he said every other department made administrative cuts and kept more front-line services.

“I do have concerns regarding any brownout of stations that would jeopardize one of the jewels of our city, and that’s Cal State San Bernardino,” Kelley said, noting that the closest fire station to the campus in his ward was one slated for rotating closures and alluding to wildfires that have threatened the school in the past, damaging buildings.

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