San Carlos inching closer to outsourcing police

May 11, 2010 7:42:13 PM PDT
A special public hearing just got underway in San Carlos over plans to outsource its police department. Two agencies have made proposals that would save the city some money, but the decision on what to do won't be easy.

Having its own police force may be a service San Carlos can no longer afford. Facing a $3.5 million budget deficit, the city council invited neighboring agencies to submit proposals. Redwood City and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office claim they can do it for about $2 million a year less.

"They offered services from about a $6 million to $7 million range. We're currently spending $9 million. So, we could actually remove costs out of the equation. We know we're going to get significant savings, which is what we thought," says San Carlos Mayor Randy Royce.

Outsourcing is a new concept to the city's 28,000 residents, but not to other Bay Area communities.

"We believe that this model is effective because we've seen it work elsewhere in California. We've seen it work in Santa Clara County. We've seen it work in the East Bay where the cities actually pay less that have contract services," says City Manager Mark Weiss.

Residents are torn over the cost-saving plan.

"We'll see how fast they respond," says resident Mary Lou Ursino. "Yes, if there's an emergency, what would be the speed of their response?"

"Maybe we should kind of gather together or try to give them some help or something to keep them together here because they're doing a good job," says resident William Christman.

The council will be examining the two proposals to determine what level of service will be provided. San Carlos is also considering outsourcing its fire protection.

"Perhaps it might be a new model in the future as far as consolidating or regionalizing fire service and police service throughout the county, but again people are very concerned when you talk about the cost savings. Are we truly getting the same service in return?" says community blogger Chuck Gillooley.

The new budget year begins July 1. That gives the City Council only a few more weeks to make a final decision.


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