Sharing and the Future
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Sharing and the Future
Back in July I wrote about the sharing of costs in order to provide services to our residents. I talked about how important this concept is and will continue to be in providing effective emergency services in the midst of rising costs and shrinking revenues. I recall the time, as do most long-time San Mateo County residents, when you could drive on 101 and know what city you were passing through. Such is no longer the case for without the city identification signs on the roadways; you would not be able to determine when you left one city and entered another.

I mentioned in that July article that we were implementing the sharing of a Fire Chief with San Mateo. I am very pleased to report that so far the results of sharing the Fire Chief with San Mateo have been very positive and the transition could not have gone any smoother. The Chief has been able to utilize the resources of the combined staff to backup each of the Departments. There is little doubt that this positive outcome will continue.

Another area where shared services might be utilized is in the Police Department. In talking with other cities on the Peninsula, some have implemented Police sharing for some time. However, sharing police services is a little more difficult to implement than sharing fire services.

Responding to fire and medical emergencies is very similar throughout the County. Firefighters are stationed with large pieces of equipment at centrally located positions. Firefighters’ primary public contact is in emergency situations. San Mateo County has had centralized fire dispatching and coverage for several years and every indication shows that such an arrangement has been very successful. Fire personnel and equipment often cover nearby fire stations when the firefighters from the nearby station are responding to local calls. The recent San Bruno Fire witnessed fire personnel from many of the local cities responding to the tragic emergency.

Police services differ from fire services in that police personnel are out and about the community in patrol cars interacting with the community on a 24/7 basis responding to a variety of citizen issues. There are local ordinances that differ from city to city.

However, there is some commonality between Police agencies in the administrative and specialized unit areas where sharing and economies of scale may be utilized. Areas where sharing police services could be utilized are in the specialized functions such as SWAT, traffic, crime investigations, dispatch, crime prevention programs, and centralized records management.

One statistic I heard recently that I thought was worth sharing is that in the United States, there are over 17,000 individual policing agencies while England has 43. The US has only 6 times the population and 75 times the geographical area but over 400 times the policing agencies... It might be worthwhile to explore some of the methods used by our neighbors “Across the Pond”.

Personnel costs and the ever increasing requirements of safety issues are growing at a faster pace than revenues. And yes, you have heard that before and it is and will continue to be an ongoing problem that will need to be addressed. No one wants to experience service reductions but unless we develop creative solutions to delivering services at less cost the reality is unmistakably clear.

I can safely state that your City Council continues to take public safety very seriously and has no intention of compromising the safety and welfare of our residents. Public safety and infrastructure rank high on the priority list of provided services.

This article should not be considered as an announcement that we are actively pursuing an arrangement to share police services, but merely an informational concept that will warrant serious consideration in the very near future. The City Council will continue to explore the potential of sharing staff with other municipalities in all areas where both cities benefit economically while the level of service is maintained.

The City Council and Staff have been working very diligently looking at costs and related service reductions in an effort to achieve a balanced budget. I must reiterate that we must consider new approaches to budget solving. Given the bleak economic outlook, the bottom line choice will most likely be multi-city collaboration and/or service reductions.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at akiesel@fostercity.org.

Council Corner

November 10, 2010
Sharing and the Future
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