Team players earn national distinction

Several north Peninsula communities, who have already saved a great deal of money by sharing services such as police and fire, are looking forward to sharing more operations, city managers said after receiving a national award.

Millbrae, Burlingame, San Bruno, Hillsborough and Brisbane were recently recognized by the International City/County Management Association for quality shared-services programs delivered at a low cost, topping 40 nationwide entrants.

Sharing operations is a key strategy to the sustainability of Millbrae and other nearby cities, Millbrae City Manager Ralph Jaeck said.

“Small cities just can’t afford to do everything as a standalone service like they could in previous times,” Jaeck said.

Much of the county is finding that out.

Burlingame City Manager Jim Nantell is looking into joining police traffic and/or investigation bureaus with Millbrae, Hillsborough and possibly San Mateo. Such a move would prevent unnecessary duplication of supervisors in those units, thereby saving money for each department and increasing coverage, he said.

Local fire department union heads recently pushed to form a countywide department. Hillsborough is looking into sharing an emergency operations command center with Burlingame, a move which would save the affluent town up to $1 million, said Hillsborough City Manager Tony Constantouros.

“Whether we get an award or not, we’d continue to look at and consider shared services as long as they were cost-effective and didn’t reduce services to the community,” he said.

Hillsborough and Burlingame each save $1.4 million annually by sharing the Central County Fire Department. Millbrae and San Bruno have recently inquired about joining the agency.

Sharing police chiefs between Millbrae and Brisbane has saved each city $100,000 annually. Millbrae saves another $350,000 each year by consolidating its dispatch services with the county.

Quality was maintained during these partnerships, the award states. For Millbrae, residential burglaries have decreased 42 percent in the past year with shared police services.

San Bruno, meanwhile, put a ladder truck back into service using the $270,000 it saved last year from sharing public-safety operations.

Burlingame and Hillsborough have not experienced any difference in response time after merging fire departments, city officials said.

The top priority of shared services like the San Bruno/Millbrae shared battalion-chief program is to increase efficiency, San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said. It is simply “good government” to take advantage of those opportunities, she said.

The biggest challenge to shared services is territoriality, the national group said. Cities fear losing control and employees worry about missing promotion opportunities.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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