ISLETON, CA - After disbanding the city's trouble-plagued police department in a cost-cutting move, Isleton's city manager said the fire department may be next.
"We can't afford it," said Dan Hinrichs, a consulting engineer from Placerville working on a one-day-a-week contract.
The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department formally assumed responsibility for law enforcement in Isleton on Saturday after the city council voted to disband the three-man police department, which had been the focus of two critical grand jury reports.
Hinrichs said it would have cost at least a half-million dollars to bring the police force up to professional standards in a city of 850 residents with total annual tax revenue of just $450,000.
The sheriff's one-year contract cost $180,000, but Hinrichs expects more than half of it to be covered by a federal grant.
Isleton residents were generally pleased with the city council's decision to disband the police department.
"They have to stay within their budget and they've found that by going with the sheriff, they can do that," said Chuck Hasz.
George Thomas, a bartender at Isleton Joe's Restaurant and Saloon, said he's satisfied with the level of service sheriff's deputies provide after his initial concern about losing a police department just a few blocks away.
"I see them a lot when I get off late at night. I really believe it will work out," Thomas said.
Hinrichs said the city is now looking at other ways to stretch the city's budget, hammered by a loss of property tax revenue and a business district with multiple vacant storefronts.
He said the neighboring River Delta Fire District has offered to take over responsibility for fire protection.
River Delta and Isleton used to be a combined fire department, and Hinrichs said it might make financial sense to combine them into a single entity again.
Hinrichs cautioned that even radical changes to basic services may not be enough to save the struggling city.
"Frankly, I'm not optimistic," he said.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net