A.G. police may have to stay in temporary digs through year's end

Meanwhile, Sheriff's Office could take over A.G. police dispatch services permanently

clambert@thetribunenews.comApril 18, 2014 

The Women’s Center in Arroyo Grande has been transformed with a banner reading “Arroyo Grande Police Station” and temporary fencing blocking off a parking area for police vehicles.

Inside the tan building on Vernon Street, police officers, detectives, supervisors, records staff and other employees work in two large rooms, separated by a partition.

Some equipment is now stored on folding tables, the men’s locker room is in a walk-in storage container and a portable toilet has been placed outside to provide a bathroom for individuals with disabilities.

“The conference room works really well until it’s raining,” Records Clerk Becky Milton said, referring to an outdoor patio.

Arroyo Grande police moved most of their department to temporary quarters in February — and due to a delay in remodeling efforts at their permanent station, they may have to stay there through December.

In the meantime, the county sheriff’s dispatch center made space for police dispatchers, a temporary move that could become permanent.

On Tuesday, San Luis Obispo County supervisors and the Arroyo Grande City Council will each consider agreements for the Sheriff’s Office to provide police dispatch services for three years, with an option to renew in three-year increments.

Police Chief Steve Annibali said doing so would improve dispatch staffing levels and save the city money. The estimated cost is $322,576 for the 2014-15 fiscal year, with costs increasing about $30,000 each year for two years after that.

Annibali said personnel costs for five full-time and one part-time dispatcher were about $500,000 a year. The cost savings — about $170,000 the first year — will be returned to the city’s general fund, he said.

Annibali said the change would ensure that at least two dispatchers are working at all times. Sometimes, the Police Department would only have one dispatcher working a graveyard shift, for example, which could be problematic during a major emergency.

Fire-related emergency calls are now being dispatched by Grover Beach police.

The Sheriff’s Office usually has three to four dispatchers working at all times, as well as a watch commander, spokesman Tony Cipolla said.

“We’re hoping it sets an example for other agencies to pursue consolidation,” Annibali said. “We think a county dispatch center would serve everybody the best, but any form of consolidation would increase the level of service and decrease costs.”

Annibali said the Sheriff’s Office agreed to hire three Arroyo Grande dispatchers as part of the agreement, but some of the city’s five full-time dispatchers have left the department in the past few months.

Three took jobs with other police departments. Two were offered jobs with the Sheriff’s Office.

Construction delay

The Police Department might have to stay at the Women’s Center longer than anticipated because construction bids for an estimated $1.4 million remodel project at the current station came back in March about $715,000 more than expected.

After swallowing their surprise, city officials studied the plans to see why the 10 proposals were so much higher than anticipated.

“We came to realize there were things in the project … that were way over what we needed for our facility,” Annibali said.

City staff made some changes and sent the project back out to potential contractors this week, he said. The bids will be opened May 14 and will likely go to the City Council on May 27.

Police officials say the station on North Halcyon Road is run down and inadequate for the department staff, which has nearly tripled since police moved into it in 1973.

But after Arroyo Grande voters twice rejected bond measures to pay for a new station — one in 2012 for $6.7 million and one in 2010 for $6 million — city officials decided to pursue an upgrade instead.

Changes will include expanding evidence storage space, improving locker rooms to meet the needs of female and male employees, and fixing water damage.

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