The Oxnard Police Department has agreed to submit a proposal to provide police service to Port Hueneme--months after dropping its bid because of alleged indifference by Port Hueneme officials.
Oxnard Police Chief Harold Hurtt said his department will now complete the overdue proposal within weeks, after meeting with acting Port Hueneme Police Chief John Hopkins to smooth over past differences.
"I would like to get this behind us," Hurtt said about the misunderstanding that followed a joint meeting between the two city councils in May.
The belated offer will be the second proposal received by the Port Hueneme City Council, which has considered the possibility of contracting for police services as a cost-saving measure.
Last month, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department unveiled a proposal to patrol Port Hueneme for $1.85 million the first year, a savings of $300,000 over the Port Hueneme Police Department's current spending level.
The sheriff's proposed contract would replace the Port Hueneme department's 19 officers with a station commander and enough deputies to staff three patrol cars. Most of Port Hueneme's current officers would be hired by the Sheriff's Department.
Sheriff's officials emphasize that Port Hueneme would not only save money by contracting with the larger department, but benefit from sheriff's resources such as the major crime investigation unit, personnel recruiting, training and experience in labor negotiations.
Savings from contracting with the Sheriff's Department can be substantial, according to comparisons of the cost of police service throughout Ventura County. Of the county's 10 cities, the four with the lowest costs--Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Fillmore--all have contracts with the Sheriff's Department.
After listening to the sheriff's proposal last month, the Port Hueneme council delayed further evaluation until Oct. 20, when the Sheriff's Department is scheduled to return with a proposal that includes two more supervisorial positions.
By then, the Oxnard Police Department may be ready to submit its own contract proposal about three months after it was initially due, Hurtt said.
Hurtt said he put the contract proposal on hold after a May 19 joint meeting of the Port Hueneme and Oxnard councils, at which remarks by some Port Hueneme officials were interpreted as a lack of interest in the Oxnard department.
"There wasn't an overwhelming response in favor of the Oxnard department patrolling the streets of Port Hueneme," Hurtt said. He also cited Port Hueneme's grant of $16,000 to the Sheriff's Department to pay for work on the contract offer as evidence the city was leaning away from Oxnard.
Port Hueneme Police Chief John Hopkins met with Hurtt Sept. 29 to reaffirm the interest of Port Hueneme in Oxnard's offer, and described the proposal as "back on track."
While the Oxnard Police Department does not have a history of providing contract services to other cities, Chief Hurtt said the proximity of Oxnard to Port Hueneme could give an edge to the Oxnard proposal.
"We could flip a switch right now and start dispatching for Port Hueneme today," Hurtt said. "There's a relationship between the two departments that already exists. Even now we get 911 calls that are from Port Hueneme. If we have a unit available, they go right ahead and handle it if it's on the border between the cities."
Hurtt added that the Oxnard department could offer Port Hueneme the same services the Sheriff's Department can, except for the use of the sheriff's crime laboratory and helicopter assistance.
But the Oxnard department could furnish Port Hueneme around-the-clock supervisory staff, and is prepared to allow the Port Hueneme police officers to continue wearing uniforms that identify them as Port Hueneme police, he said.
Yet even if the two contract proposals offer Port Hueneme a chance to realize significant savings, civic pride could prompt residents to retain their own department, said Mayor Orvene S. Carpenter.
The Port Hueneme council has indicated it may ask residents to approve a special tax to retain the Port Hueneme police force before agreeing to hire another agency.
"Regardless of who we contract with, we would lose our identity--that's what many people are thinking," Carpenter said.
"It will be a hard decision that voters will get emotional about," Carpenter said. "But it boils down to the fact that you can't spend emotion."