A merger with the San Mateo Police Department could save Burlingame as much as $750,000 annually by cutting administrative costs and duplicate services, according to city officials.
Though no decision has been made to combine the two police units, a contract to begin looking at that possibility is expected to be discussed by the Burlingame City Council next week.
Burlingame City Manager Jim Nantell said it could be several months or even years before a final decision is made, but the city wants to put an interim chief in place during talks.
“We don’t want to hire a permanent chief because if we do look at the merger, now we have two chiefs,” he said. “But we do need an interim while we look at all the various options.”
Nantell said administrative positions — including chief, sergeants and lieutenants — could be combined. Consolidation of dispatch operations would also be considered.
The contract to be discussed at Monday’s meeting will offer the interim position to San Mateo Deputy Police Chief Mike Callagy.
The contract is for one year at the Burlingame’s chief salary of $240,000.
Burlingame’s former chief retired in December. Capt. Ed Wood has been serving as acting chief.
Burlingame is facing a $3.5 million deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
Nantell said if the two departments fully merge, Burlingame stands to save between $500,000 and $750,000 annually. If dispatch operations merge, roughly $200,000 would be saved.
San Bruno and Millbrae are also considering a similar merger; the two cities currently share a chief. Redwood City is also considering offering its services to cash-strapped San Carlos.
Business owners and residents, however, are not supporting the idea.
John Kevranian, a downtown Burlingame business owner for 16 years, said he does not agree with the idea to merge the two police stations.
“My biggest concern is response time,” he said. “As a business owner, I worry about public safety. If I have an incident now, the police are here in less than 5 minutes. That will certainly change.”
Kevranian said he would like to see the city keep the current acting chief and promote a sergeant to assistant chief if city officials feel it is necessary to have another assistant chief. He hopes the officers on patrol will not be affected.
San Mateo police could not be reached for comment on the matter.
A proposal would combine the Burlingame and San Mateo police departments.
$500,000-$750,000 Estimated annual savings for Burlingame if departments are merged
$3.5 million Burlingame deficit for next fiscal year
$240,000 Proposed salary for shared police chief
$200,000 Savings if dispatch operations merged