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Finance committee recommends keeping public safety services local

By: By Carol R. Percy News Messenger Reporter
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Know and Go: The finance committee’s recommendation not to contract out public safety will be discussed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at McBean Park Pavilion on 65 McBean Drive.

 

The cliché, “you could hear a pin drop,” came to mind as Lincoln’s finance committee members weighed in on the subject of whether to keep public safety employees local or contract out to county and state entities.

When the finance committee, comprised of City Council members Spencer Short and Peter Gilbert, and Lincoln treasurer Terrence Dorsey, met at City Hall Monday to discuss financial issues vital to Lincoln’s future well-being, the big question for many in the council room was, “Would we keep our public safety employees in Lincoln or contract them out to CDF and the Placer County Sheriff’s department?

There was an audible sigh of relief among the approximately 15 audience members, which included city staff, public safety representatives, press and the public, when Short announced the committee’s unanimous vote. That vote was to recommend to City Council that safety services remain under the city’s control.

The vote reflected a resounding support for local police services and strong support for fire, Short said.

Treasurer Dorsey said that the city hasn’t experienced a crime wave and the Lincoln Police Department “has done a wonderful job,” even with a reduced force.

“I see no reason to lose control (of our public services) to spend more money on contracted services,” Dorsey said.

Councilman Peter Gilbert added that he has “a problem giving up the capability to have a chief of police who would provide police services in a way the community wanted it.”

In the wake of massive city employee lay-offs and an $8 to 9 million price tag for a reduced force for police and fire safety, contracting out employees seemed to fiscal sustainability committee members and supporters an eminently viable alternative to keeping public safety staff in Lincoln.

But finance committee members and public safety representatives voiced concerns Tuesday about the city paying more for contracts (a reported $1 to 1 ½ million) and at the same time losing control of city services.

Some of the issues cited Tuesday against contracting were extended response times for emergency calls, loss of local “flavor” when services were merged with larger departments and payment of steep fees to contract out services.

Paul Shelgren, Lincoln’s interim Chief of Police, said he “was pleased with the committee’s recommendation to keep services in city.”

“It’s best for the city and the department. Hopefully when this goes to the full council, they’ll agree that staying with the Lincoln Police Department is best for the community and the city,” Shelgren said.

Lincoln Police Department officers have a vested interest in Lincoln, not only because it’s their job but because it’s their hometown, according to Shelgren.

“Most of our officers live in Lincoln. Their kids go to school here, play sports here,” Shelgren said. “They care about what happens here in Lincoln and that helps them do a better job when they’re looking after their own hometown. They’re providing services to their friends and neighbors.”

After hearing about the cost-benefit analysis for public safety, Lincoln’s interim Fire Chief Mike Davis said that it “was encouraging” to see the finance committee vote to maintain local control of Lincoln’s police and fire departments.

“Our firefighters are by nature very resourceful,” Davis said, “and we’ve done an excellent job of maintaining service levels during this economically challenging time where budgets and positions have been impacted.”

When queried about where he stood on the question of “to contract or not to contract” Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader said, “I would like to reserve my comments to when the full council discusses the matter.”