Hermosa Beach outsourcing tabled

Councilman Kit Bobko’s proposal to consider outsourcing the city’s parking and animal control officers has been tabled until the fall, when it will be folded into a larger discussion of ways the municipal government can cut its overall expenses by 10 percent.

More than a dozen people, including residents and parking officers, who provide animal control services as well, told the City Council that the 10 employees display professionalism and knowledge of the city, and provide a wider range of services than would a private contractor.

“I think it would be a colossal mistake to outsource our parking people,” longtime resident Rick Koenig told the council at the Monday meeting. He called the officers “ambassadors” that come into contact with visitors to the city.

Parking and animal control supervisor Kerry Rosell said outsourcing “looks like a savings, but it’s not.” He said a private contractor would not provide animal control or direct the towing of cars.

“It’s more cost effective to keep things the way they are,” he said.

One Hermosan said he has arrived at his car as a parking ticket was being written, and got a break “because the officer knew I was a resident.” Another said she wants the matter placed on the ballot.

“I think the public is against this,” she said.

Gregorio Daniel of California Teamsters Local 911, which represents some municipal employees, pointed out that the city already has balanced its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and said the workers are willing to help City Hall find cost savings.

He pointed to agreements in which Hermosa became the first beach city to establish a “two-tier” pension system in which future hires will get smaller benefits than do existing employees.

“We’re in this together,” he said.

Parking Officer Jim Karlock said he serves with “grace under pressure” and “professionalism,” and diffuses potentially tense situations on the job.

Parking Officer Pat Saltzman said residents can count on her to respond to animal control calls at night and alert police and public works employees about a variety of problems she sees on patrol.

“My shirt says ‘Hermosa Beach Police’ on it, and people believe they can get help from the Police Department,” she said, contrasting that with the prospect of parking officers with ‘Inter-Con Security’ on their shirts, referring to a potential contractor.

Bobko’s council colleagues raised a number of questions about the outsourcing proposal. Bobko said he does not question the quality of service provided by the city officers. But, he said, the salary, pension and health costs are 300 times what the open market would dictate.

“This is about math. If this were a business…this would be a no-brainer business decision, truly,” he said.

Bobko said the most expensive parking officer costs the city $92,000 a year in salary, benefits, retirement and Medicare combined, drawing from a report that the council requested from Police Chief Greg Savelli.

He pointed to a report from Inter-Con, which contracts with a number of other Los Angeles-area cities, showing that it bills municipalities $26 or less per hour for a single employee, and $39 or less for a single employee on overtime.

Moreover, Bobko said, the city would not have to pay pension and benefit costs for contract employees.

He said about $3 million must be set aside for the 10 city employees to meet pension and Medicare expenses, based on a presumed retirement age of 62.

He said one city parking officer with a salary of $56,000 would cost the city more than $300,000 in pension benefits if he retires at 62 years of age and passes away at 86.

“I’ve been beating my chest and grinding my teeth to get a handle on this,” he said.

At Councilman Michael DiVirgilio’s suggestion, the council agreed to include a discussion of the outsourcing proposal in a study of ways City Hall could trim its expenses by 10 percent. DiVirgilio called for a report by city staff to the council on how to achieve the cost cuts, and said 2.5 percent of the cuts must come from “salaries, benefits, etcetera.”

At a council meeting a week and-a-half ago, Bobko and Savelli exchanged heated words in what Mayor Peter Tucker described as “shouting matches” arising from the outsourcing question, and on Monday the heat was cooled with conciliatory words.

Savelli apologized to Bobko for “inappropriate comments at the previous council meeting,” and Bobko thanked him, adding, “From one guy with Latin blood to another, I know how that gets sometimes.”

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