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Costa Mesa continues outsourcing efforts

City staff advise outsourcing jail services and street sweeping, but keeping animal control, building inspections and video production in-house.

May 14, 2012|By Joseph Serna

The Costa Mesa City Council will consider Tuesday whether to outsource five city services, more than a year since the wheels were first set in motion amid furious protests from city workers and local activists.

City staff are recommending Costa Mesa outsource its jail services and street sweeping but keep its animal control, building inspections and video production in-house.

Staff recommend that the city contract with G4S Secure Solutions, a worldwide company owned by Danish security firm Group 4 Falck. According to the city staff report, the city ignored an unofficial offer to partner with Newport Beach for jail services and picked G4S over one other private bidder.

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The company's proposal could save Costa Mesa more than $600,000 annually in the long run, but in the short term it would be about $410,000 because the city would likely have to keep a police sergeant on staff for the first year to oversee the transition to the firm.

G4S has more than 45,000 employees and earns more than $2.5 billion annually. The city staff notes, among other things, that the company's decades of experience in providing private security, its work with federal immigration authorities and its labor costs make it the ideal choice.

The company does have marks on its reputation, however. A newspaper in Birmingham, England, last October reported that the staff there lost the key to one of the jail cells, and a February 2011 report by the Center for Media and Democracy reported misconduct by Wackenhut Security — G4S' former name — while guarding an American embassy in Afghanistan.

In 2010, an Angolan asylum seeker died while in G4S custody as he was being deported on a British Airways flight.

G4S would accept millions in liability if it contracts with Costa Mesa, according to the proposed contract.

The council is also expected to agree to contract out its street sweeping. The city received more than half a dozen bids for the work and staff suggested signing on with Athens Services, a family-owned company that provides street sweeping for Newport Beach and Lake Forest, among other municipalities.

The shift to privatization could generate $10,000 to $20,000 annually by parking Athens Services' equipment on city property and save the city almost $90,000 annually in lowered costs. Costa Mesa would still need a dedicated supervisor to manage the contract, which would lower the savings between $12,000 and $30,000, staff estimated.

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