Outsourcing Our Fire Department

The city is saving money and being fiscally responsible by outsourcing our fire department

San Bernardino County Fire is now the City of Upland’s fire service provider. This was another difficult decision the council made. I truly loved our wonderful men and women that served our city in our local fire department. The city council knew we had to make this difficult decision due to huge rising cost of our unfunded liability facing the city in CALPERS and the city’s financial state.

This was not a sudden decision, as many believe. Several years before I got on the council, the city had a Special Citizens Task Force that had recommended a series of things to be done to pull Upland out of its severe fiscal problems. One by one, when I got on the council we implemented these procedures. One of those was to outsource the Fire Department. At first we tried a partnership with Montclair Fire Department and looked at having a Joint Powers of Authority. In a trial run, we found the City of Upland was not doing as well financially and decided to withdraw from the agreement.

Then, we were given the option to outsource to the County Fire Department. We thought Upland would be alone in this, but the county insisted that the San Antonio Heights be included with us, which was a dilemma since they did not want to be included. The City of Upland had asked that the Heights not be included, but LAFCO insisted.

Despite all of the controversy, this new arrangement not only saved significant dollars for the City of Upland, but continues to save due to no new CALPERS costs, no more fire infrastructure costs or others associated with this costly drain to the General fund. We knew each owner would have to pay a fee of a little over $150.00 a year, but this would save the city from continuing down the path to fiscal ruin. If we had not done the things we did, our city would be in the red and many services would be in jeopardy.

With determination, we moved ahead and found all our fire employees got employment. Truly, the San Bernardino Fire Department has provided better services and had more updated equipment for our fire personnel and citizens.

Having 47 less employees means no new CALPERS costs for the city. The preliminary savings for the last fiscal year was over four million. This means more money in our General Fund. This also means we no longer have to pay for the upkeep on all the fire trucks and buildings. One new fire truck costs close to 1 million dollars and upkeep on the buildings even more. It is estimated this move will save 50 million in 10 years. This money can go to fix roads, sidewalks and trim trees or hire police officers.

The annexation also gave Upland more immediate access to regional services, such as the county’s reserve apparatus, Hazardous Materials Response Team, Urban Search and Rescue Response Team and wild land hand crews. A brush engine and Office of Emergency Services engine also are now stationed in Upland.
The annexation also includes an emergency services coordinator dedicated 90 percent to Upland from the county’s Office of Emergency Services. Through that, the city has offered free emergency preparedness classes to residents and FEMA compliant training for staff, is updating its emergency operations plans and received a grant for equipment to aid dogs in distress on scene at fires.

Follow up: (One year later) The potential for cost-savings was a driving force behind our decision to dissolve our century-old fire department and join the county. But, while a preliminary audit of the 2017-18 budget supports the city’s projections of money Upland has and will save, we face a lawsuit by the San Antonio Heights Association against the City of Upland, the county and LAFCO. Today, October 15, 2018 it was in the Daily Bulletin that the County Supervisors and LAFCO took a vote and are annexing in all the unincorporated areas.
There is never a dull moment in this job…