Needles Gets No Slack From Sheriff On 2014-15 Contract But Cuts Deal With Fire Department

(July 15)  The city of Needles, which ranks among the three most economically challenged of San Bernardino County’s 24 municipalities, was cut some slack by the county with regard to its expenditures for basic services in the 2014-15 budget.
Needles contracts with both the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County Fire Department for law enforcement and fire protection service, respectively.
Fourteen of the county’s cities contract with the sheriff’s department for police service. This year, the sheriff’s department upped the price of that service, the department said, primarily due to changes in workers’ compensation, retirement, and liability costs. At its last meeting in June, the county board of supervisors signed off on a collective $5,915,693 increase to the contracts of the thirteen county cities other than needles that contract with the sheriff’s department – Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley, Big Bear, Yucaipa, Highland, Loma Linda, Grand Terrace, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Victorville, Adelanto, Rancho Cucamonga and Chino Hills. Whereas in 2013-14 those 13 cities paid a total of $113,268,794 for law enforcement service,  in 2014-15 those 13 cities will pay $119,184,487.
At that point, Needles had not finalized its budget and so its 2014-15 contract with the sheriff’s department was not brought forth.
Any speculation that the county would subsidize Needles law enforcement operations was foreclosed when at the July 8 board of supervisors meeting the Needles/sheriff’s department budget was given final approval. Like all of the other contract cities, Needles saw the amount of money it will pay for law enforcement service increased.
Whereas in 2013-14, Needles contract with the sheriff’s department was for $1,896,998, in 2014-15, the city will pay $1,997,847 for the same level of service.
The contract amendment, which reflects the new salary and benefit rates for safety and general employee classifications as well as updated supplies and equipment costs for 2014-15, was approved by the Needles City Council on June 24, 2014.
For many deputies, Needles is considered a plum assignment because duties there include patrolling the Colorado River and Lake Havasu, tasks which are often carried out in boats or on jet skis.
In his negotiations with the county fire department, Needles City Manager Rick Daniels was able to soften County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig and battalion chief Tom Marshall into lowering the earlier proposed increase the county had was seeking with regard to the Needles fire protection service contract.
In 2013-14, Needles  shelled out $606,026 for fire service. The county proposed earlier this year upping that amount to $675,000. Upon the city council’s approval of the general fund budget on June 24, the county had reduced that demand to $623,565. That represents a relatively minuscule 2.6 percent increase from fiscal year 2013-14.
According to Marshall, the county will absorb several equipment-related expenses that will directly enhance the public safety element of Needles. Those expenditures include $2,200 toward two new gas monitors; $7,000 for high pressure air bags; $10,000 for eight new radio sets; more than $5,000 worth or repairs and upgrades to the department’s Engine 31, the main engine at the Needles station.

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