By Rachel Purdy
Bay City News Service
The San Carlos City Council voted unanimously Monday night to begin negotiations with Redwood City to create a hybrid fire department as a cost-saving measure to reduce the city's $3.5 million budget deficit.
The 5-0 vote came after dozens of people spoke out against the city's other options -- outsourcing services to a private company or contracting entirely with Redwood City, Councilman Bob Grassilli said.
The new model would allow San Carlos to retain its firefighters while management would be provided by Redwood City. The Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department will dissolve on Oct. 12, Grassilli said.
The City Council also voted 3-2 to invite back Wackenhut Services Inc., the private company considered for hire, if the talks with Redwood City fail, Grassilli said.
Monday's decision came after about nine hours of negotiations to save the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department failed Friday. The long-standing partnership was broken up by disagreements over the cost-sharing formula between the two cities, Grassilli said.
San Carlos would save an estimated $1.5 million annually by changing to the hybrid model, he said.
The city has already saved about $2.5 million annually by deciding to outsource police services to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and parks and recreation maintenance to a private company, Grassilli said.
The Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department was established in 1979 as one of the first fire partnerships in the region, said Grassilli, who fought to save the joint enterprise earlier this year.
Grassilli is optimistic about the hybrid approach with Redwood City but warned against overestimating the cost savings to the city.
"The devil is in the details. We'll know more after these negotiations," he said.