The Grover Beach City Council, in one relatively quick vote, put an end to the idea of consolidating police services with neighboring Arroyo Grande—at least for the foreseeable future.
On May 21, Grover Beach City Manager Bob Perrault presented to the skeptical council members his staff’s report on the most recent proposal by Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams and Police Chief Steve Annibali to contract law enforcement services with Grover Beach in light of both cities’ ongoing budget troubles.
Following Perrault’s brief presentation, the council voted unanimously to reject Arroyo Grande’s bid, and the city will carry on with its business “as if [any law enforcement consolidation] wasn’t on the immediate horizon,” according to Perrault.
The vote put an abrupt end to a three-year courting effort by Arroyo Grande to draft a consolidation proposal that would “fit everyone’s needs as best it could,” as described by Arroyo Grande Chief Annibali.
That final proposal would have brought the joint agency to a roster of 38 full-time sworn officers, 12 non-sworn employees, and 16 part-time employees. The merger would have had similar characteristics with the consolidated fire services for the Five Cities area.
Though Grover Beach staffers acknowledged there would be advantages—such as increasing service capabilities—the endgame resulted in a “loss of control” over its ability to provide those services to its own residents. Staffers suggested that decision-making authority regarding policies and departmental priorities would rest squarely in Arroyo Grande’s purview. The proposal also didn’t address such issues as performance measurement or reporting responsibility, Grover officials argued.
Council members characterized the proposal as a contractual agreement, and not a true consolidation. They pointed to lingering questions over possible officer demotions, a lack of a guarantee that every position would survive, and seemingly no apparent direct financial benefit for the city.
Council members also expressed concern that contracting out law enforcement services wouldn’t befit a city such as Grover Beach, which is pursuing its own charter.
“This is not consolidation as we wanted to see it,” Councilman Bill Nicolles said, adding that he thought the city’s police department didn’t need the help. “This is Arroyo Grande taking over.”
Councilwoman Karen Bright quickly made a motion to have Perrault write a letter to Annibali informing that the city was rejecting the offer, “but thank you very much.”
Annibali said he was “disappointed” with the city’s decision after three years of work from his staff.
“No proposal for consolidation is going to make everyone happy,” Annibali told New Times. “But this was going to increase service and keep taxes low.”
Annibali maintains that many of the council’s concerns would’ve been alleviated were he and his staff allowed to present the proposal in person and answer questions, which he’d done before at a previous post in Pennsylvania.
Pointing to arguments that Grover Beach officers would be required to pass physical and psychological testing before working with the AGPD, Annibali argued that, as the host agency, Arroyo Grande would be required by the state to perform the minimal testing to protect itself from any possible liability—as it does for all new hires. He said Arroyo Grande officers, as a condition of their employment, have already passed such testing.
“My boss believes in consolidation. I believe in consolidation,” Annibali said. “We gave it the best shot we could, but I don’t think there’s going to be a next step.”