San Bernardino Fire Chief Michael Conrad said that when a city has reached the point of cutting emergency services such as fire and police, you know it’s bad.

Conrad was asked on March 31 to look at his fire department and make changes that would save money. The plan that he created would cut a battalion chief and a training captain and would free up $250,000 in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

“This is a very important opportunity to balance our budget,” San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris said. “It is a very responsible plan.”

Conrad’s goal is to keep as many firefighters in the department as he can. The potential cut would take his already lean management staff from nine to seven. 

“How else would I (free up revenue) but to cut management? If they want me to get it somewhere else, I don’t know where it will be,” Conrad said.

Morris explained that San Bernardino has yet to pass the city budget that was due on July 1. He said that it would be optimal if all services were addressed, but said that law requires passing a budget.

Conrad stated that every city worker has already taken between an 8 to 10 percent pay cut. 

Some members of the City Council believe this revenue should be used to fill fire fighter vacancies, while others recommend it be used to help balance the city’s budget.

The Personnel Committee voted unanimously to keep the management structure of the fire department the same, despite Conrad’s recommendation.

Some members of the committee said that the fire department could generate up to a half a million dollars in revenue by enforcing safety codes, increasing fines for violations and broadening the scale of penalties.

City Manager Charles McNeely will present this issue in front of the City Council on August 4.

Morris said he felt the City Council would look at Conrad’s plan as an opportunity to meet the city’s budget needs.

“I hope and believe this will be part of the budget construct,” said Morris.

Louis Dettorre can be reached at