UNION CITY -- The cities of Fremont, Newark and Union City each would save millions of dollars by consolidating their police dispatch services into one unit, according to a report prepared by consultants hired to study the idea.
However, Newark officials -- citing concerns about start-up expenses and decision-making autonomy -- already have opted out. The start-up costs, expected to total between $1.75 and $2.5 million, are tied to replacing its existing dispatch computer system, Newark City Manager John Becker said.
"But we're going to keep the door open, and take a wait-and-see attitude," Becker said.
Fremont and Union City, meanwhile, are forging ahead based on figures prepared by Deltawrx, a management consultant company the three cities paid $70,000 to study the idea.
The possibility of the savings -- contained in a cost feasibility report presented to Union City council members Tuesday night -- is music to the ears of other Tri-City area leaders.
"I'm basically sold on this already," Union City Mayor Mark Green said.
According to Deltawrx, a joint police dispatch center would have an average 10-year savings of at least $4 million for Union City, and at least $3 million for Fremont.
"Those figures are subject to change, should there be any changes to the assumptions on which they're based," said Monica Lynn, a Deltwrx manager. "But the bottom line is that consolidating is financially feasible and has operational benefits."
Newark's decision to opt out slightly lowers the savings for its neighboring cities, but the plan is "still economically valuable for both Fremont and Union City, so we're proceeding," said Mark Danaj, Fremont's assistant city manager.
The proposed consolidation's other advantages include better supervision for dispatchers, improved communication between the police departments, and an opportunity to make necessary replacements to their technology systems, the report stated.
Also, the average cost per call in a centralized dispatch center would be lowered to $30.64, according to Deltawrx. Fremont police's current average cost per call is about $35, while Union City's is $45.
Fremont police now employ 18 dispatchers and four supervisors; and Union City's staff includes 14 dispatchers and a part-time supervisor. If the two cities combine forces, their combined total of 32 dispatchers will decrease to 26, while there will be six supervisors. Those dispatchers' current annual salaries, including health benefits, range from $90,000 to just under $117,000, according to the report.
"From a common-sense approach, consolidating would be a more efficient use of people," Union City police Chief Brian Foley said.
Officials in both cities say they hope the new dispatch center is up and running within the next 12 to 18 months. But many crucial details need to be worked out, such as melding work cultures, merging computer systems and finalizing a contract that protects both cities' interests, said Larry Cheeves, Union City's city manager.
"But there's no reason why we can't do that," Cheeves said. "I'm very positive we can work together and save money for both cities."
In addition, the Fremont Fire Department -- which currently contracts with an Alameda County-managed dispatch center -- is considering whether to join the consolidation.
"It's kind of like a puzzle piece that we're still trying to fit together," Foley said. "There are challenges, but they're not insurmountable."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.