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Newport mayor: More outsourcing may be on horizon

One service that could become privatized or shared is trash collection, which could be controversial move.

June 29, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

NEWPORT BEACH — As the City Council approved $8 million in budget savings for the 2011-12 fiscal year, Mayor Mike Henn and other council members signaled Tuesday that they are looking to outsource more city services in the coming year.

One of the suggestions is to privatize residential trash collection, a city-run service that residents rank highly in satisfaction surveys.

The push to privatize and share services with neighboring cities fits into the council's long-term goal of reducing employee costs and pension obligations. Newport's measured approach to outsourcing has been to slowly shift services to the private sector.

"This year's budget cuts are half the story," Henn said after the council adopted the budget. "Our ability to meet next year's goal … will require further consideration of contracting out of services, as well as regional collaboration on ways to save money."

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Beyond trash collection, Henn said other services that may be outsourced include jail administration; training for police officers, firefighters and lifeguards; restroom maintenance; oil well operations; the city print shop; and some financial operations.

There are no "sacred cows," Henn said.

City functions that could be combined with neighboring cities, he continued, are the Fire Department; the S.W.A.T. team; police recruitment and investigations; vehicle maintenance; some information technology services; and police dispatch and jails.

They could be "in-sourced," meaning Newport could become a contractor for other cities, Henn said.

He emphasized that each service would be analyzed and some may have a "perceived benefit" being in-house that would outweigh any cost-savings achieved through outsourcing.

The incremental approach Newport is taking is in clear contrast to the Costa Mesa City Council's sweeping move to hurry and outsource many of its services.

Over the past year, Newport has, by piecemeal, contracted out its street sweeping, parking meter operations, beach trash collection, animal shelter and street-light maintenance.

The next round may stir more controversy, Henn warned, because trash collection is "a very large issue for the city" that some people consider "sensitive."

In the city's 2010 resident satisfaction survey, 92% of residents said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their trash collection. City Manager Dave Kiff in the past has said that people like the city's custom service.

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