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San Bernardino council asked to consider outsourcing firefighters

San Bernardino city council.
San Bernardino city council.
Steven Cuevas / KPCC

The San Bernardino City Council, for the second time in two weeks, will consider asking state and county fire departments to name a price for taking over the city's fire-fighting duties.

The question of contracting out fire services came up and was quickly dropped on a 4-3 vote Oct. 7. But Councilman Chas Kelley, who voted with the majority to table the issue, resigned last week after pleading guilty to perjury, having concealed $74,000 in campaign contributions.

Kelley's departure leaves the potential for a tie vote, which Mayor Pat Morris would break in favor of soliciting proposals for taking over firefighting, said his chief of staff Jim Morris.

The council is scheduled to debate the issue at its 4 p.m. meeting Monday. The agenda that the San Bernardino city clerk posted last week mistakenly indicated the proposal was to solicit costs for both fire and police contracts, but only fire service contracting is under consideration, Morris said.

The city declared bankruptcy last year, with the mayor blaming the high costs of the city's police and fire pay and benefits. Contracting out police and fire services is among the suggestions Mayor Pat Morris makes in his 10-year plan to put the city on stable financial footing.

The council ordered up a study of contracting out police service to the Sheriff's Department in 2011, Jim Morris said. The study found the city is spending about $230 per resident on police services, while nearby cities that contract policing to a county sheriff's department are spending $150 to $170 per resident, Morris said.