13 Orange County cities agree to participate in $300,000 study of sheriff’s department contracts – Orange County Register

MISSION VIEJO — The 13 cities that contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for police services are onboard to pay a portion of an estimated $300,000 for a study to find ways to reduce costs for sheriff’s contracts that have continued to rise — in some cases by nearly 25 percent over the past few years.

Mission Viejo, which spearheaded the efforts with the other 12 cities last month and will pay the highest pro-rated cost — $45,038 — for the study, was the last to enter the agreement with a unanimous City Council vote on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

“We’ve had a very good relationship with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department since our incorporation and they continue to provide excellent service to the city as well as the other contract cities,” said Dennis Wilberg, city manager for Mission Viejo. “However, the cost of the contract continues to rise…It is time to take the step to see what types of efficiencies we can identify.”

At least three South Orange County cities — Lake Forest, Aliso Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita — have seen sheriff’s costs increase by nearly 25 percent over the past few years. Laguna Woods saw a 78 percent increase in that same time frame.

Other cities that contract with the Sheriff’s Department include Dana Point, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Yorba Linda, Villa Park and Stanton.

Officials have said they hope the study will reveal whether they’re paying a fair price for law enforcement and whether sharing positions, such as having a police chief for multiple cities, or pooling resources to break away from the Sheriff’s Department could save them money.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said in an interview Wednesday, Sept. 28 that she’s open to the idea of a study.

“I’m pleased that they’re going to bring someone on board to look at it and hopefully someone who understands law enforcement,” Hutchens said. “I think what they’ll get out of it is that we’ll come out looking like the great deal that we are. It’s quite expensive to have your own law enforcement agency.”

The cities will pay a portion of the study cost based on each city’s population. The study is projected to be completed in late 2018, according to a staff report.

For example, Lake Forest, with a population of almost 85,000, will pay $39,530. Villa Park, which has the smallest population of the 13 cities at 5,944, will pay $2,766, according to the staff report.

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