The city of Newport Beach this week took a preliminary step toward outsourcing the operation of the city jail to a private company.
The city requested bids from providers who could operate the jail.
Police Chief Jay Johnson said the move could reduce the jail's $1 million annual budget by 30% to 40%.
The jail, located at Police Department headquarters in Newport Center, would not move from the area as part of the outsourcing proposal and no police personnel would be laid off, Johnson said.
The city is searching for someone to run the 27-bed jail, possibly as soon as the city gets a viable bidder and the City Council approves the change, according to a copy of the bid, which Johnson confirmed.
The chief said outsourcing could solve the problem of having to pull a trained female employee from the records department when a woman is taken into custody. The staffer has to remain in the jail while a woman is in custody, which can sometimes take up the majority of her shift.
Outsourcing would also allow the Police Department to keep more officers in the field, instead of relying on them to transport inmates to Orange County Jail.
"Using a private firm to help with these transports could save money and valuable time by leaving the officers and reserve officers in the field longer to respond to calls for service or handle other issues," Johnson said.
The city plans on selecting the contract for service first with a panel ranking each proposal independent of the cost, then conducting interviews before the city examines what it would cost or negotiates a price.
Recently, Costa Mesa took a similar measure, approving to contract with international company G4S Security Solutions, paying it $743,329 a year to run the city jail.
Initially Newport Beach floated the idea of partnering with a neighboring city to share jail costs, but the complications of location and jail capacity made the possibility not a viable solution.
However, Johnson said should the police department headquarters move, the partnership could again become an option.