November 16, 2011, 12:34 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff
Millbrae will begin negotiating to contract with the Sheriff’s Office
for police services — a decision that could save the city $1.1 million
to $2 million annually but that split the opinion of those at Tuesday’s
City Council meeting.
San Bruno and Millbrae currently share Neil Telford, who acts as
police chief for both cities until Nov. 18 when he will return to San
Bruno full time. On Tuesday, Millbrae official voted 3-2, with
councilmembers Paul Seto and Nadia Holober dissenting, to begin
negotiating a contract for services to be provided by the San Mateo
County Sheriff’s Office. The vote came after more than two hours of
discussion with community input that raised concerns about adequate
staffing, volunteers and the future for non-sworn employees.
The timing of the decision was another topic that split those in
attendance. Both Holober and Seto advocated for waiting until the newly
elected council took office before the end of the year to make the
“I’m voting no because it goes against the overwhelming majority of our community,” Holober said.
Others on the council disagreed.
“We have to make a decision and sadly, I don’t think we have
enough facts,” said Councilwoman Gina Papan, who added Tuesday’s
decision allows for negotiations to start so remaining questions can be
Mayor Dan Quigg and Vice Mayor Marge Colapietro both pointed to
the city’s financial challenges as a reason the sheriff’s proposal made
sense. Quigg added many of the expressed concerns and questions were
answered Tuesday before the vote.
For example, Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos said the plan includes
positions for all the department employees — sworn and non-sworn, that
can be tweaked to accommodate the city’s robust volunteer program, and
the city can maintain any property it would like. Items like vehicles
and other equipment to be used through the new partnership will result
in a credit toward the upstart costs, he said.
The city’s current annual budget for the department is $4.258
million. When the budget is changed to include vehicles, safety
equipment, overhead costs and other costs, the annual budget is raised
to $7.27 million.
Should the city want to maintain its own department,
Telford suggested increasing staffing levels by 2.5 full-time equivalent
employees — a cost of $410,000 annually — that would raise the number
of employees to 32 FTEs.
Advocates for maintaining an independent department questioned
the rush to make a choice while also noting the additional cost seemed
“We should not risk the safety of our residents for a $410,000 deficit,” said resident Joe Chen.
Chris Co, special services coordinator for Millbrae police, asked
the city to consider maintaining the current department staffing adding
only a full-time chief and slowly building to the preferred levels. She
also suggested asking the city’s electorate for money through a joint
safety assessment that would support both the police and fire
departments. Co’s suggestion was one Telford couldn’t recommend.
Submitted by Jim Alex