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Let the people speak: Outsourcing Dispatch Services?

In a meeting attended by few, I rose to speak on Resolution 15-35; which will authorize the Mayor to negotiate with the Licking County Commissioners about giving the county the responsibility of providing our police dispatching services:

" Change can be a good thing. Likewise, making a system more efficient and less redundant can be good. However, the question must be asked if we will be better off abdicating our role in providing the city’s police dispatching services. Would it be in the best interest of the people of Newark to leave this up to the county?

Less than a month ago we the people first heard about this proposal. In that meeting, we repeatedly heard that “nothing is being proposed”, but yet a piece of legislation was offered only two weeks later to authorize our Mayor to negotiate terms for outsourcing these services to the county. Granted, the resolution was amended to require that the Mayor bring this issue back to the full council for a final vote, but I’m reluctant to see this as a victory for the people. Reason being, that we continue to have a great deal of questions left unanswered.

For example, I – as a concerned citizen, and father of two young children – would like to know how abolishing the city dispatching position in favor of leaving it up to the county affects the response time of our officers. I’m sure the administration has an answer, and I’m pretty sure I know what the F.O.P. and AFSCME have to say, but what about an independent study or even some input from the officers and citizens themselves? Councilman Cost said it best last week when he underscored the top priorities pertaining to issues like this: the safety of our citizens and officers must come first. So, why are we rushing to make this hasty change? Don’t the people deserve to be fully informed as well as treated to an extensive debate here?

Honestly, I get it. Eliminating eight jobs from the city’s payroll and contracting with the county would save us some money, and that looks good when you are trying to project the image of being a good steward of public dollars. Additionally, with the county having an upgraded system, handing the jobs over to them seems more appealing. Having pointed out the list of pros, it would be irresponsible to ignore the cons; especially since we are dealing with something as vital as the security of this place we call home.

Let us ponder this question for a second: is it more important to save money or to save a life? What if the changes being proposed would slow our police response time by a minute? It’s reasonable to consider a nightmarish hypothetical scenario wherein that minute lost could result in the loss of a life. For a moment, ponder this question: are the promised savings of sacrificing the invaluable experience of our city-employed dispatchers worth even one citizen’s life?

When moving forward, I implore the members of this council to consider the full array of consequences relative to these desired changes. It would be equally instructive to remember that this is about more than eight jobs or a balanced budget, because the results could have long-term effects on the citizens of this city. To be honest, the magnitude of these changes might warrant a vote of the people for final approval. So, I ask – for the sake of Newark’s good citizens – put this before the voters when the negotiating is done so that we may have enough time to fully analyze all the facts and have the discussion that we deserve.

Thank you."

After the meeting was finished, I was about to leave when a single kind lady stopped me. She thanked me for my comments and informed me that she was one of our dispatchers. I could see in her eyes that her concern was sincere, and I was truly glad that she had taken the time to attend. In two weeks, I hope we have a packed house. The Council, and our Mayor, need to see that.

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