Keep our police and fire staff localBy: Carol Feineman, Editor
Sometimes the obvious solution becomes buried as bureaucratic conversations go nowhere over a period of months. And often, the answer has been there all along, since the beginning conversations.
Such is the case of whether Lincoln’s police and fire services should stay in-house as it currently is or if services should be contracted out.
This question was first brought to City Council by the fiscal sustainability committee in a report delivered last February to council members.
The fiscal sustainability committee made 115 recommendations, including contracting out, on changes the city of Lincoln should make to be financially healthy.
City Council held a workshop with the fiscal sustainability committee last April.
Shortly after the workshop, City Council directed city staff to look into the “apples to apples” comparison of keeping services in-house or contracting with both the Placer County Sherriff’s Office and CalFire.
Last October, Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep and Lincoln Interim Police Chief Paul Shelgren met with the Sheriff’s Office; Estep and Interim Fire Chief Mike Davis met with CalFire.
Their initial research makes the decision whether to stay in-house an easy one.
The Lincoln officials found that it would cost the city more money (resulting in extra expenses passed on to residents) to contract out.
When the city of Lincoln staff met with the Sheriff’s Office staff, according to Estep, “the Sheriff’s wouldn’t give us a proposal based on the 19 officers we have now. They said we didn’t have enough staffing to be safe and they thought we needed more sworn officers. They proposed at least 22 sworn officers and the amount was substantially higher at over $300,000.”
Estep said the costs would similarly increase if the city hired CalFire for fire services.
“They could staff the fire department at the same level and guarantee the staffing if someone’s out sick,” Estep said, “but CalFire would cost more than our city’s fire department.”
CalFire also requires a one-time as well as ongoing capital replacement funds in the low millions to replace equipment, ranging from trucks to hoses.
Contracting out, several fiscal sustainability committee members reasoned a few months ago, makes sense if it saves money.
But, based on the initial city staff research, the answer should be no contracting out of police and fire officers.
Our current police and fire officers should remain as Lincoln’s law-enforcement representatives.
“Sometimes, it’s easy to be pennywise and pound foolish on matters like this. The initial costs estimates do indicate that an in-house department is more effective for the community,” said immediate past Mayor Spencer Short on Friday. “Even if the costs were slightly higher, it would still make more sense to have local control over policies and procedures for the safety of our community. There have been many hard decisions made in the last several years to maintain fiscal solvency. Our intention is to maintain Lincoln as the safest city in Placer County.”
Stan Nader, a Lincoln City Councilman who rotated into the one-year mayor position Tuesday, is an advocate of the fiscal sustainability committee.
Plans are for city staff to bring the contracting-out analysis to a City Council meeting in January or February.
But instead of spending more time researching the potential cost-savings, city staff could spend their valuable time addressing real problems.
Nader, as the new mayor, should listen to Short and those City Council members who have decided that keeping public-safety services in-house makes the most sense.
Not contracting out saves money and keeps our public safety officials local, which makes for an easy decision.
Plus many of our officers live in Lincoln so they’re here most hours of the day. They know the city’s residents better than officers who might live elsewhere.
Contracting out is a compromise to the safety of residents.
This is one of those “no-brainer” decisions council can make without needlessly dragging the conversation out another few months.