MONTCLAIR - The City Council will consider the fate of its fire services in a special meeting Tuesday night.

The council will review two proposals which could outsource the city's fire services to either San Bernardino County Fire or Cal Fire.

The council will review cooperative fire service agreements from the agencies who have provided several alternatives which includes changes to staffing levels.

Tuesday's workshop will be the first public review of proposals. The city has been considering options since the middle of last year.

"We'll review the two proposals for the council, the public and firefighters so they can become aware of the proposals," he said. "The City Council will make a determination in which agency they want me to negotiation to develop a cooperative service agreement."

Since 2007, the city's general fund has declined from $30 million to $25.5 million as a result of the recession.

The process is drawing criticism from Chris Jackson, the president of the Montclair Fire Fighters Association, who is concerned the bidding may not have been opened up to more than the two current agencies vying for the contract.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide the people of this city with the best possible service and we're not sure how that will happen with proposals from only two agencies," said Jackson.

But, City Manager Edward C. Starr said the city submitted a request for proposal and Cal Fire and County were the only agencies that were viable options. A request to the Ontario Fire Department was denied while Los Angeles County Fire Department, Chino Valley Independent Valley District and Rancho Cucamonga Fire District were not considered for several reasons.

Starr said he met with the attorney for Los Angeles County Fire Department who informed him that its agency would not allow them to cross into San Bernardino County.

In the past, Montclair had attempted to work on a cooperative agreement with Chino Valley Independent Fire and Rancho Cucamonga districts on a multiagency agreement which included Upland but both plans were too costly.

At that time, Rancho Cucamonga indicated it was only interested in serving Upland, a contiguous border.

Montclair had also considered a joint powers authority with Upland but the city opted to go in a different direction, Starr said.

"We were looking at a cost-effective rate so looking at Chino and Rancho did not necessarily fit our effort to regionalized fire services," he said.

Given the two options, Jackson said he would prefer to go with county because it would allow for better response times and better service for the residents of Montclair. Cal Fire, though, may be able to improve over the city's current situation.

"County has mutual aid and stations nearby that can assist if all our units are occupied with calls," Jackson said. "The closest Cal Fire stations are in Highland and Yucaipa."

Jackson is also concerned about the staffing level associated with Cal Fire.

Currently there are eight firefighters on duty every day. According to Jackson, that number could drop to six if Cal Fire takes over duties while the county fire's staffing numbers would remain similar to Montclair's.

Jackson agreed that Montclair Fire does currently have a mutual aid agreement with Ontario and other nearby agencies, but said it's not for medical aid calls.

"What were to happen if we have three heart attacks in the city at the same time?" he asked. "Right now we can handle it but if Cal Fire comes in, who knows."

Even after Tuesday's special meeting, Starr said he doesn't expect a change in the near future. The negotiation process alone could take three months. Once an agreement is made it would then go to the city council for review. At that time the council could make revisions to the agreement, he said.

Depending on what direction the city goes, each agency would also have its own approval process it would have to go through before coming back to the city council for final approval, Starr said.

The special meeting of the City Council will be at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 5111 Benito St.


Reach Beatriz via email, call her at 909-386-3921, or find her on Twitter @IEBeatriz.
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