Two South County city councils have taken issue with a San Luis Obispo County grand jury report critical of their lack of a unified emergency dispatch service.
Council and city staff members for both Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach said the report was contradictory, contained errors and ignored their long history of consolidation efforts.
“The grand jury report fails completely right from the very beginning without batting an eye,” Grover Beach Councilman Bill Nicolls said as the council deliberated its response.
“The fact that it left Pismo Beach out of this report, this completely just boggles my mind,” he said.
City Manager Bob Perrault agreed that if consolidation is considered again, it should involve all three municipalities.
“As a staff member, I would probably support that because I tend to think that, as numbers grow, there’s more potential for efficiencies of cost,” Perrault said.
“However, it would have to be an equal participation amongst all the three agencies,” he added.
While the cities disagreed with most of the grand jury’s findings, they were not perfectly aligned in their criticism.
Both agreed with the grand jury’s finding that there is a duplication of efforts among the police and Five Cities Fire Authority dispatch services.
Both disagreed about the grand jury’s contention their citizens are at risk because of computer incompatibility between their two systems.
They also both disagreed with the report’s contention that Five Cities Fire Authority and Cal Fire are at a stalemate over consolidating fire dispatch.
Arroyo Grande Councilman Joe Costello, who represents the city on the Fire Authority board, also disagreed with the claim the authority is reluctant to cooperate with Cal Fire.
“We work with Cal Fire every day,” Costello said. “We do work together, and we will continue to work together.”
But while Arroyo Grande agreed with the finding that consolidation could bring significant cost savings to both cities after the first-year expense for combining equipment, Grover Beach disagreed.
“All of the reviews completed thus far indicate there would be a limited amount of savings resulting from the consolidation of Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande dispatch centers,” Grover Beach said in its response to the report.
“The actual amount of savings would vary, depending on which agency hosted the consolidation. Studies completed thus far do not indicate a significant future cost savings to either agency.”
Grover Beach council members said the city would consider consolidation proposals but doesn’t plan to make any immediate changes.
But Arroyo Grande council members indicated they want to push forward on both an interim dispatch consolidation, possibly with the County Sheriff’s Department providing the service, and an eventual permanent consolidation.
Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara said the cities, county, Cal Fire and Fire Authority should get together to discuss creating a regional emergency operations center.
“The South County lends itself to that sort of thing,” Ferrara said.
Councilman Jim Guthrie said in the meantime, the cities should seek a service proposal from the county.
“We owe it to the public to move forward with something sooner than later,” Guthrie said. “We should be moving forward with something that’s concrete today.”