While acknowledging the suggestion might make some uneasy, Arroyo Grande City Council members agreed this week that combining its police force with Grover Beach’s department is an idea that should be pursued.
But a considerable question remains.
“Absolutely the first thing that we have to know is: Is Grover Beach at all interested?” Councilman Joe Costello said Tuesday.
The Arroyo Grande council voted 5-0 to ask its staff to set up a joint council meeting with Grover Beach in the next month, if possible, to discuss the idea of consolidation.
Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals said Wednesday that he’s interested in discussing a merger — but only as equal partners. He’s not interested in entering into a contract with Arroyo Grande and paying for the service, but would be open to talking over other arraignments, such as a joint powers authority, which would give the cities equal oversight over any joint operation.
“We don’t mind having a discussion,” he said, “but based on my experience with (the Five Cities Fire Authority), that’s something that’s a few years out.”
The fire authority, which serves Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano, was created last summer after years of work. It was formed as a joint powers authority and has a three-member advisory board.
Shoals said he’ll raise the issue of a joint meeting at the Grover Beach council’s next meeting.
Combining police departments could save from $854,000 to $1.13 million a year, according to a cost analysis by Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steve Annibali. Start-up costs for a combined department are estimated at $106,700.
A combined department could have 38 sworn officers, 15 non-sworn employees and 14 part-time positions. Annibali said both departments have vacant positions and upcoming potential retirements that could allow them to combine with one or two layoffs at most.