The San Carlos City Council tonight voted unanimously to disband the city’s police force and contract out police services to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office beginning in October.In an effort to mend the city’s $3.5 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year, city staff projected that the agreement with the sheriff’s office would save the city $2 million without sacrificing the level of police service the community hopes to maintain.”I believe this will be excellent service for $2 million less,” mayor and councilman Randy Royce said. “I guarantee it will be as good and I believe it will be better.”The city currently delegates $8.9 million annually to maintain its police force, and the sheriff’s office will charge around $6.7 million to police the community, according to city staff reports. The agreement approved tonight includes provisions to guarantee jobs at San Mateo County without loss of pay or benefits for all full-time staff at San Carlos police, including administrative staff, officers, sergeants, commanders and the police chief, who will become a sheriff’s captain of a new San Carlos police bureau.The savings will allow the department to reinstate community service programs like Drug Awareness Resistance Education, or DARE, that had to be cut due to budget constraints.The City Council began considering contracting out their police services in December 2009. Despite the unanimous support of the City Council, community members utilized the public comment period to voice fears that the agreement with the sheriff could represent a potential loss in attention to the community.”We do not support a continued reduction in public services,” resident Nancy Parker said.”This is a bitter pill for the community to swallow,” White Oaks neighborhood organizer Ken Castle said.Faced with current and projected budget deficits, the council accepted the speakers’ comments and moved ahead with the agreement.”We’re closing parks, we’re closing services and we can’t afford to hire anymore police officers,” City Councilman Andy Klein said.The agreement, if approved by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, will take effect Oct. 31, 2010.
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