Outsourcing Fire Department Rejected on Peninsula - NBC Bay Area

Outsourcing Fire Department Rejected on Peninsula



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    The San Carlos City Council voted unanimously Monday night to  begin negotiations with Redwood City to create a hybrid fire department as a  cost-saving measure to reduce the city's $3.5 million budget deficit.

    The 5-0 vote came after dozens of people spoke out against the  city's other options - outsourcing services to a private company or  contracting entirely with Redwood City, Councilman Bob Grassilli said.

    The new model would allow San Carlos to retain its firefighters  while management would be provided by Redwood City. The Belmont-San Carlos  Fire Department will dissolve on Oct. 12, Grassilli said.

    The City Council also voted 3-2 to invite back Wackenhut Services,  Inc., the private company considered for hire, if the talks with Redwood City  fail, Grassilli said.

    Monday's decision came after about nine hours of negotiations to  save the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department failed Friday. The long-standing  partnership was broken up by disagreements over the cost-sharing formula  between the two cities, Grassilli said.

    San Carlos would save an estimated $1.5 million annually by  changing to the hybrid model, he said.

    The city has already saved about $2.5 million annually by deciding  to outsource police services to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and  parks and recreation maintenance to a private company, Grassilli said. 

    The Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department was established in 1979 as  one of the first fire partnerships in the region, said Grassilli, who fought  to save the joint enterprise earlier this year.

    Grassilli is optimistic about the hybrid approach with Redwood  City but warned against overestimating the cost savings to the city.

    "The devil is in the details. We'll know more after these  negotiations," he said.