Consolidating the Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande police departments makes perfect sense — among other advantages, combined savings would total more than $400,000 per year — so it’s disappointing that the Grover Beach Police Officers Association no longer supports the move.
The union was in favor of the merger until it became apparent that three Grover police employees — adispatcher, records clerk and the police chief’s secretary — could lose their jobs under the proposal to have Grover Beach contract with Arroyo Grande for police services.
Also, two Grover police sergeants could be demoted to senior police officers and all Grover officers would have to go through testing to ensure they are “up to Arroyo Grande’s standards.”
It’s understandable that the union would express serious reservations about those issues, but to make a blanket statement that the association “will never support aproposal that results in the loss of jobs to any of our members” is outrageous, especially when you consider Grover’s financial situation.
The city faces an $800,000 shortfall and as a result, is preparing to lay off six employees and to continue employee pay cuts and furloughs.
The police merger would save Grover Beach at least $100,000 per year. Arroyo Grande would save $311,200.
Also, by pooling resources, a single department would operate more efficiently and effectively. According to a memo from the Arroyo Grande police chief, more officers would be on patrol at any given time and more specialists — including a high-tech crime specialist and community relations specialist — would be available to both cities.
Plus, there would be advantages for Grover officers in the form of pay increases; for example, the Grover Beach sergeants who would be hired on as senior officers would earn nearly $2,000 more per year.
We agree that it would be unfortunate if the merger resulted in a loss of jobs, especially since it was initially suggested that would not be necessary. We urge the two cities to make every effort to offer those employees comparable positions, if not in the police department, then in other offices.
However, we believe it would be irresponsible and shortsighted to drop the proposal, even if layoffs cannot be avoided.
Given the financial struggles of government at every level — federal, state and local — it’s incumbent on all agencies to explore every way to reduce operating costs while maintaining acceptable levels of service. The consolidation of the police departments would do exactly that.
We commend officials in Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach for considering the proposal, and we strongly urge them to move forward.