San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 08/11/15 – 8:19 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> The City Council will get a report Wednesday supporting a plan to outsource fire services to the San Bernardino County Fire Department, City Manager Allen Parker said Tuesday.

The City Council is set to vote on the plan — one of three options presented to the city — at a special meeting on Aug. 24.

The proposal from county fire would save the city $7 million while providing increased fire and emergency response, Parker said, and would add nearly another $8 million to the city’s general fund through a possible $139-per-parcel fee on residents.

That fee is not vital, Parker said, but the plan would involve an annexation process, which the city must initiate with the Local Agency Formation Commission for San Bernardino County by the first week of September in order to complete by 2016.

“The county would annex us to a district, so we would have to give up control of our Fire Department,” Parker said.

But, he said, it would be worth it, resulting in both cost savings that the city counts on to exit bankruptcy and faster emergency response times.

“We wouldn’t be going down this road if we didn’t think it would improve service,” Parker said. “They would close one additional (fire) station, but they’d supplement that with one of theirs. The number, I think, would go from 38 to 41 (firefighters) on duty at a given time.”

The report was developed by Citygate Associates, a consultant that has studied the city’s Fire Department before, without input from the department’s battalion chiefs.

That breaks a promise Parker made to the seven top-ranked Fire Department employees, who form a union called the Fire Management Association, that group’s president said in an email to Parker.

“On multiple occasions, you assured the FMA of your commitment to include us in this process,” Battalion Chief Michael Bilheimer wrote. “Yet as of (Monday), we have been excluded from every step. It gravely concerns me that you have independently elected to draft a Request for Proposal, retained a consultant to review those proposals, barred us from reviewing the proposals, and are preparing to take action without ever having consulted with the leadership of the Fire Department.”

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