Monday, July 2, 2012

(El Dorado County Grand) Jury calls for merging services

By Carlos Alcalá
Published: Sunday, Jul. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

The El Dorado County grand jury is recommending a radical step, asking the cities of Placerville and South Lake Tahoe to consider letting El Dorado County absorb the services they now provide.

Noting that the two cities' budgets total more than $50 million, the 2011-12 grand jury asserts, "(t)here would be a substantial cost savings with consolidation of city and county services."

However, the grand jury did not do analysis to see whether any specific efficiencies could be achieved, and covered the matter in just three pages.

"We didn't get that far," said Ted Long, jury foreman. "It just seems common sense."

Long, a former South Lake Tahoe councilman and member of the L

ocal Agency Formation Commission, said resistance is entrenched. "They don't even want to talk about it," he said.

However, Placerville Mayor Mark Acuna said his city has already done the analysis for some services.

The city examined whether to cede law enforcement to the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office, finding it was "either a wash or more expensive," Acuna said. "In neither instance could the county sheriff provide a more economical service."

On the other hand, the city does contract with the El Dorado County Fire District for service, he said.

Without specific recommendations and indications that money can be saved, the city is unlikely to pursue consolidation, Acuna said.

"We don't have staff or budget to be exploring these kind of theoreticals," he said. "If the grand jury can identify for us where we should be looking to partner, by all means we want to partner."

Long pointed at Stockton's bankruptcy woes as an indication that cities may be obsolete.

"You've got technology that allows you to do more with less," Long said.

The average sheriff's patrol car is better equipped than a sheriff's substation two decades ago, he said, suggesting there isn't a need for as many stations – or governments.

"I think it's an inevitable approach," Long said.

Though he believes it will happen, he also believes he's the first to suggest it. "Do you hear anyone discussing consolidation?" he asked.

The matter has been mentioned in financially insolvent Isleton, in Sacramento County, but most activity seems to be in the opposite direction.

Sacramento County has seen Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights and Elk Grove incorporate in recent decades, while Arden Arcade has seen a move to incorporate.

Likewise, El Dorado Hills has seen a strong incorporation movement, due to widespread dissatisfaction with services from El Dorado County government.

Long said he was the only one promoting the idea of consolidation at first but managed to convince others on the grand jury.

"Just because we've always done it this way doesn't mean we should keep doing it," Long said. "Isn't it time maybe we looked at it?"

Read more here:

No comments: