South Orange County had its share of challenges in 2017: a Laguna Niguel Mayor stepping down and eventually resigning from the council after being accused of bullying while he found contract cost overruns, two cities switching to district elections and a wireless firm contracting with various cities while making unclear promises of legal protections and taking a large percentage of revenue.
A contractor hired by 13 Orange County cities will begin a study in the next few weeks of costs the county Sheriff’s Department charges the cities and the services they receive after cities complained law enforcement expenses ate up as much as 50 percent of their annual budgets.
Irvine-based 5 Bars Communities won contracts with at least three Orange County cities, saying it could protect them from impacts of state legislation taking away city power to say where wireless transmitters are installed. Lake Forest may opt Nov. 7 to handle the issue itself.
Mission Viejo could move from at-large elections to district elections after a voting rights attorney sent a demand letter warning the city it is violating state law because the current voting system disenfranchises minorities from getting elected.
The 10-agency South Orange County Wastewater Authority (SOCWA) is undergoing a state audit after financial discrepancies were found over the last three fiscal years, it clashed with a member agency that provides nearly half its budget and it faces an ongoing lawsuit.
All 13 Orange County cities that contract with the Sheriff’s department will conduct a joint study on how to curb the rising costs for police services after some cities worried about spending nearly half of their budget on sheriff’s services.
Mission Viejo’s Mayor Pro Tem Ed Sachs told a city council meeting it could be time for south county cities to form their own police force due to the rising costs of contracting with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Following significant salary hikes granted by Orange County Supervisors to Sheriff Deputies, fueling a 33 percent increase in costs over the past decade, contract cities are now starting to publicly question whether they need to look into alternatives. OC’s biggest contract city, Mission Viejo, takes leadership on a new audit of Sheriff’s patrol services. Big questions also loom over whether city or county taxpayers own the long-term pension obligations for both Deputy Sheriff’s and Firefighters if cities bolt from current regional policing and fire protection models.