HERCULES -- The city is poised to break up a more than 30-year marriage and replace Pinole as its police dispatch service partner to save money.
Hercules police Chief Bill Goswick, praising Pinole's dispatchers as top-notch, said economy of scale makes it cheaper for Hercules to join a bigger dispatch pool than one consisting of just two small cities, with a combined population of fewer than 50,000. He said Pinole has been an excellent service provider for more than 30 years and that Hercules never had any complaints.
However, Goswick told the City Council on Tuesday that Hercules stands to save as much as $190,000 a year by contracting with another agency.
Hercules is paying Pinole $452,651 for dispatch service this fiscal year and is slated to pay slightly more, $455,285, in 2013-14.
Goswick said he has held exploratory talks with Richmond and Contra Costa County and is preparing to talk to Martinez soon.
Richmond dispatches for El Cerrito, Kensington and San Pablo police in addition to its own police. Goswick suggested that Pinole might want to consider moving to Richmond also, if Hercules does. He said he has broached the subject of a move with Pinole police Chief John Hardester and will continue to talk to Pinole.
Pinole Mayor Debbie Long said Wednesday she understands Hercules' desire to save money but that she is disappointed Hercules did not hold discussions with her city before going forward.
"I understand the need for confidentiality, but we are partners," Long said. "I'm disappointed that they didn't respect our city and our employees enough to approach us to see if, as a unit, we could get a better deal."
The dispatch operation, which serves both cities but is run by Pinole, involves seven employees, Long said.
The Hercules council on Tuesday authorized City Manager Steve Duran to give Pinole a six-month termination notice, as mandated in the contract between the two cities, and to submit to the Hercules council a new negotiated police dispatch services contract as soon as practical after the June 4 election, once Hercules gains some clarity about its financial picture.
On that date, Hercules voters will decide whether to increase the city's utility user tax by 2 percentage points, to 8 percent, which would pour about an additional $1 million a year into the general fund. The tax would sunset in five years.
Mayor John Delgado, citing Hercules' long police dispatching relationship with Pinole as well as other joint ventures such as the Pinole/Hercules wastewater treatment plant, recommended postponing a vote for two weeks to give the two cities time to talk about the matter.
"I'd like it to be done together, rather than unilaterally," Delgado said.
But Councilman Bill Kelly, saying he has to look out for Hercules' interests first, pushed for an immediate vote in view of the six-month termination period. In the end, Delgado joined fellow council members Kelly, Sherry McCoy and Dan Romero in a 4-0 vote. Councilwoman Myrna de Vera was absent.
Goswick said a switch to Richmond would involve one-time costs of about $50,000, whereas switching to Contra Costa County could entail a one-time cost of more than $100,000. The reason for the difference is consolidation of record-management systems, which would be more expensive in a move to the county for reasons related to compatibility of the various agencies' current systems, Goswick explained.