Facing a potentially large increase in costs for contracting with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office for police services, the Portola Valley Town Council voted 5-0 to extend the current contract to Sept. 30, at a cost of $373,461, while town officials negotiate.
The proposed contract includes about a $852,739 increase over the previous one, due the cost-of-living increases and operational costs that were not previously passed on to the town. Its current contract, approved in 2018, was set to expire on June 30. Services in the current contract include, according to the town's website: one patrol deputy 24 hours a day; a shared deputy with the town of Woodside; traffic and parking enforcement services; special event security detail; criminal investigations, including detectives; and a radar trailer.
For the 2022-23 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2022, the town is paying about $1.49 million for Sheriff's services. Its 2018-2023 contract totaled around $6.3 million.
The Sheriff's Office has provided law enforcement services for the town since before its incorporation in 1964, and under contract since 1983. The terms of the agreements between Portola Valley and the Sheriff's Office typically have been three to five-year terms.
In early 2022, the council appointed Mayor Jeff Aalfs and Vice Mayor Sarah Wernikoff to serve as the Sheriff Contract Subcommittee.
On April 26, the Sheriff's staff presented the Town Council with background on the new proposed contract. With increased costs likely coming, staff asked about a potential contract extension to give the council and community time to make decisions, determine additional funding sources or consider reduced staffing.
Council member Mary Hufty wondered what it would look like to pursue police services outside of the Sheriff's Office.
Interim Town Manager/Planning Director Howard Young said with such short of notice, it would take a year to even solicit proposals for other policing services.
Resident Dave Cardinal noted that the Sheriff's Department provides all the town's police protection and residents are pretty interested in safety.
"They've just offered us a three-month extension on a very sweetheart deal," he said. "Now there's some discussion about whether we should go hire our own police force or do something insane. I'm just confused about what people think they're going to accomplish by wailing and gnashing of teeth over the extension."
Another resident urged the council to involve the community in negotiations. Young said that the town plans to host a Q&A session for residents with Sheriff's Lt. Mark Meyers.
If resolved, the Sheriff's Office will have to take a new proposed agreement to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, which will take six to eight weeks for approval. This means the town will have to have a contract agreement settled with the Sheriff's Office for the council to vote on by the end of July, Young told the council. By June 15, the town needs to let the Sheriff's Office know if it intends to continue hiring it for police services.
Past Sheriff's contracts can be viewed here.
Watch a video of the meeting here.