In tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilman Tim Pape stated he would be, barring the sudden appearance of a 9-1-1 consolidation agreement, moving to eliminate the Communication budget for 2010.
Councilman Pape’s thinking is that cutting the budget will force the City and County to consolidate the 9-1-1 system. Â But, keep in mind that the Communications budget includes a bit more than just the 9-1-1 responsibilities. Â The radio shop is included as well as information systems, including records. Â Those would not fall under County purview even with a consolidated 9-1-1 system.
You may remember that Councilman Pape first suggested this bold move back on October 14, 2008. Â The Communications Department came before the City Council a week later on October 21, 2008. Â It was at this point that Councilman Pape made the motion of cutting the entire Communications budget – $6,827,364. Â This year the department’s budget comes in at $6,677,962.
An interesting debate unfolded which went back and forth for a while until Councilman Marty Bender, who had been silent most of the discussion, spoke up:
Our communications system is the backbone of public safety in this entire system and County. To even contemplate getting rid of that department is sentencing people to death out there. It sounds a little absurd, but that’s the honest to God truth. They are quality people, they’ve got quality equipment, they’re very professional and I think they’re relatively close to an agreementâ€¦
Well, obviously, it wasn’t as close to agreement as thought at that time. Â A year later and still no agreement and from the tone of the recent Public Safety Task Force meetings, it doesn’t sound like things are any closer than a year ago on a subject which has been discussed for years.
When the call for the roll call vote came, three members voted in favor of cutting the Communications Department budget.
The three in favor were: Mitch Harper, Glynn Hines and Tim Pape.
Those with a flat out no vote: Marty Bender, Liz Brown, Tom Didier, Karen Goldner.
Two voted no, however, indicated that if the issue were not resolved by the next budget, they would vote for such a motion at that point. This included John Shoaff and Tom Smith.
If you would like, you can read my recap of the situation from last year’s Council meeting here.
Council Pspe (who screwed up on the Calhoun vote and admits as much) is trying to get something done. He should be applauded in this instance for pushing, forcing, demanding, trying to shame the “leaders” into action. The “leaders” in this debate have wasted a great deal of time and money getting no where. The community deserves a consolidated, more efficient system. The commissioners and the mayor need to find a compromise, instead of protecting their turf. Marty is probably right, in a perverse sort of way, people probably have died because the systems are disjointed. Those deaths just aren’t as easily associated with mismanagement and turf-building.
I very rarely disagree with Ben Lanka’s reporting, but in his coverage today:
Karen Goldner flat out refused to even consider it saying it was like playing a game of chicken. Didier came out in favor of the cut at first, but then changed his mind for the vote siding with Goldner. Shoaff did say he would support the motion next time ’round as well as Councilman Tom Smith.