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Ron Kaye: What's the next Verdugo Dispatch?

October 21, 2011

Realtors call it the “popular tri-city area,” a region that proudly boasts its own “tri-city airport” and fundamentally healthy economies. The FBI likes the moniker so much it dubbed a robber who hit 10 banks in Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena this summer the “Tri-Cities Bandit.”

In these tough economic times with no end in sight, government officials of the three cities, which have a combined population of nearly 450,000 — big enough to make it California’s 8th largest city, ahead of Oakland — are scrambling to find ways to cooperate, consolidate and collaborate to reduce costs while preserving, or even improving, the quality of the services they provide to the public.

Cheaper and better is a tough formula to beat at a time when cities like Los Angeles and many smaller towns in the eastern San Gabriel Valley are laying off workers, slashing services and sharply raising fees, rates and fines.

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The standard they are seeking, as Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird puts it, is, “What’s our next Verdugo Dispatch going to be?”

Verdugo Dispatch, located in Glendale’s Fire Station 21, was conceived in the 1970s and built in the 1980s to handle fire suppression and medical emergency calls for Glendale and Burbank, and then Pasadena. Now it serves a dozen cities to the east in the San Gabriel Valley.

The result is that each of the cities has cut the cost of dispatch services roughly in half and the technology available is far superior to what even the richest of them would be able to afford.

It also created a spirit of “dropping the borders” that seemed impossible during years of conflict and rivalry spawned by the takeover of the old Lockheed Airport by Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena

“If you look at Verdugo Dispatch, you see better integrated coordination between the Tri-Cities and the San Gabriel Valley cities that not only generates cost efficiency, but we’re getting a better service,” Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said.

“I don’t see the economy roaring back before 2015. Everybody in government needs to be looking at how we can be more efficient in delivering services, so we’re looking for opportunities through cooperation with other cities.”

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