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Sheriff Offers Deal to Keep City Contract : Law enforcement: Block says he’ll keep fee hikes down if Santa Fe Springs retains county patrols. Officials will vote Jan. 26 on whether to pay Whittier for providing police services.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sheriff Sherman Block, sensing he may be losing a $4.2-million law enforcement contract with Santa Fe Springs, has offered a number of concessions, including a cap on future cost increases.

City officials, who are concerned about previous increases in the Sheriff’s Department contract, are considering pulling out and hiring the Whittier Police Department to patrol Santa Fe Springs.

Officials have said they are pleased with the department’s performance, but are concerned about a 22.6% increase in costs over the last five years. The Whittier police budget increased 18% in that time, officials said.

In a letter to City Manager Donald R. Powell this week, Block promised to limit increases in the sheriff’s contract to 20% in the next five years.

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Block also said his department will assign deputies to work out of a police services center in Santa Fe Springs, if the city will pay for remodeling. Deputies assigned to patrol Santa Fe Springs currently report to the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station.

Block’s offer comes days before the Santa Fe Springs City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal to cancel the sheriff’s contract and hire the Whittier Police Department. The city has been contracting with the Sheriff’s Department for 37 years.

Sheriff’s officials this week also questioned whether the Whittier Police Department will save the city as much money as claimed, or will provide the level of service now offered by sheriff’s deputies.

The proposed switch gained momentum last month when a study contended that Santa Fe Springs could save about $550,000 per year by contracting with Whittier. The Sheriff’s Department disputed the claim, estimating that the city actually would save less than $100,000.

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The sheriff’s report also said the study ignored the cost of hiring support staff to serve the additional 32 officers that Whittier would hire to serve Santa Fe Springs. The study also failed to include a 4% pay increase that Whittier police officers are scheduled to receive in July, the sheriff’s report said.

Officials in Santa Fe Springs and Whittier said they stand by the figures in the original report.

Sheriff’s officials also contend that Whittier can’t offer the range of services provided by the Sheriff’s Department.

For instance, Whittier has no plans to hire more dispatchers to direct the additional 32 officers, which could affect response time, said Capt. Norm Smith.

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Whittier police officials said they plan to establish a computer-aided dispatch system to handle the additional officers.

The Santa Fe Springs City Council will vote Jan. 26 on the proposed Whittier contract, which also will have to be approved by the Whittier City Council. If both cities approve it, the switch could take place as early as Oct. 1.


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