PINOLE -- The city will maintain its current dispatch system and try to keep Hercules as a client by offering it a better financial deal, the Pinole City Council decided this week.

The unanimous vote followed a PowerPoint presentation by police Chief John Hardester, in which he outlined several alternative scenarios. The exercise was prompted by Hercules' announcement in April that it would cancel on Oct. 31 a decades-long dispatch arrangement with Pinole as a cost-saving measure; for fiscal 2013-2014, Hercules was supposed to pay Pinole $455,285.

That left Pinole with four options, according to Hardester:

  • Try to woo back Hercules as a client with better financial terms;

  • Continue to dispatch but for Pinole only;

  • Outsource dispatch to the Contra Costa County sheriff;

  • Join El Cerrito, Kensington and San Pablo -- and perhaps Hercules, depending on what that city opts to do -- as clients of Richmond's dispatch service.

    Hardester urged the council to consider other criteria in addition to cost and to pick Option 1, noting that Pinole has "a very efficient dispatch center," staffed by long-tenured, savvy dispatchers.

    "They know the city like the back of their hand," Hardester said. "Familiarity and seniority are crucial to a dispatch operation."

    He cited instances in which dispatchers reacted within seconds of a call to help police collar a crime suspect, in some instances while monitoring some of 47 surveillance cameras deployed throughout the city and 16 more on the Pinole Valley High School campus.

    Pinole dispatchers answer other calls besides police emergencies and transfer them to other agencies when appropriate.

    Resident Tom Cutino, illustrating the difference that territorial familiarity can make, recounted an incident when a woman took ill during a meeting at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Someone called Pinole dispatch, which transferred the call to another agency because it was medical-related. Not knowing the street address, the caller mentioned first the church, then the downtown Pinole fire station across the street.

    But without a street address, the operator had trouble figuring out the location, Cutino recalled.

    "They don't know the territory," he said.

    In the end, the council unanimously picked Option 1, with direction to absorb the loss of revenue from the reduced amount of a contract through strong managerial oversight.

    Option 2 would require laying off two dispatchers and a support services manager, Hardester said.

    A contract with the county sheriff, or Option 3, would cost about $290,000 for fiscal 2013-2014 and would result in the elimination of the support services manager and seven dispatchers, Hardester said; it also would require conversion to a different records management system at a one-time cost of about $135,000.

    A contract with Richmond would cost about $312,000 for fiscal 2013-2014 and also would result in the elimination of the support services manager and seven dispatchers.

    Hercules police Chief Bill Goswick said Wednesday that his city sent requests for quotations to the county Sheriff's Office and to the Richmond, Pinole and Martinez police departments.

    "Hercules has not made a decision for dispatch," Goswick wrote in an email, adding: "We are still compiling the numbers."

    Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner