I was asked last evening what compelled me to run for City Council. I don’t think I answered the question very well. I wish I could say that I had a noble or “higher-calling” to do this, but the truth is, I didn’t. For the last few years, we were uncertain of how long we would be in Rittman, there was a longing to move out of town and settle somewhere a little more convenient for lives. So each year we batted around the idea of putting the “For Sale” sign up to see what would happen. We never did, and the house never sold. Then last winter, I was in a perpetual bad mood about life (I’ve written about that a little here). By the time spring rolled around, I was antsy…I wanted something more. If we weren’t going to move, then I wanted to be planted where we were. I didn’t want to feel in constant limbo. So I went back to a decade-long pipe dream of mine–to be President (only kinda-sorta joking). I have always liked the idea of politics; in fact, the year after I graduated high school I went into the City Managers office to find out what I needed to do to be Mayor of Rittman. He laughed and kicked me out.
Will that ever happen–I doubt it. But the desire to have an impact on the people around can and does happen. I impact my wife’s life every day. What I do and say impacts my kids’ lives immensely. How I live in my neighborhood impacts my neighbors’ lives. The question is whether or not I do so in a positive way. And if I do, is it worth looking into opportunities to expand that impact? I think so.
So I see my time on Council as an opportunity to broaden the number of people that I can meet and impact in a positive way. Will it be seen that way by others? Probably not. Will everyone agree that I am doing so in the best way? Absolutely not. Should we stop if that is the case? No, we press on to accomplish the most good for the most people.
The Question of Dispatch
That brings us to the biggest issue facing the Council at this moment. What is the future of our emergency dispatch center? Currently, the City is running our own dispatch for our Police, Fire, and EMS Departments, as well as for Doylestown Police. If you call 911 in town, one of our own dispatchers will answer and handle your call locally. They have a personal relationship with the officers, firemen, and paramedics; they have a personal relationship with many people in town. They know Rittman well. Additionally, they man the Police station 24-hours a day providing a much-needed service to the community as a place where they can go for problems. I personally have availed myself of this service when I lost my wallet at a gas station in town. More than that, these dispatchers do a great deal of surveillance for our city through the use of various security cameras. They assist our officers by preparing records for court and supervise our city’s jail when necessary. The value of work that this crew does is immense and goes largely unnoticed by most of us. Myself included.
All that work and service comes at a cost; manhours, equipment, training, software, maintenance, and even more in the future. Most of the time, this work is done by one person, but at an unspecified point in the near future, the City is going to have to be required to have a second person available and working. This is going to increase the costs to maintain these services.
Enter our two competing offers. One is from the Wayne County Dispatch which handles dispatching calls for the Sherriff’s Department, as well as fields the 911 calls from smaller villages around the county. They are offering to take over our 911 calls and handle our dispatching from their center in Wooster. They want to take our equipment and have agreed to place a person in our building during business hours, but that person would not handle the paperwork that our dispatchers currently do. The county’s offer is a mere 14% of what we are currently paying.
The second offer is from WARCOG, which is a different dispatch center in Wooster that is a consolidated group consisting of Wooster City, Ashland, and Orrville. They are also offering to take our equipment and begin handling our dispatch services, but are not willing to keep someone in our building during office hours. WARCOG’s offer is about 50% of what we are currently paying.
So in either case, the city would still be responsible for handling people that walk in, handling our records, and paying for any communication systems that we left in the building. Furthermore, we would have to pay to switch some of our equipment and processes over and would have to come up with a way to monitor the security cameras around town. Additionally, any person that our officers would have held in our jail will need to be transported to Wooster instead. Which is going to take our officers out of town for a while, will increase our fuel costs, and wear and tear on our cruisers. All that to say, the annual cost that the County and WARCOG are offering is misleading as there will be numerous other costs that will arise if we choose to switch. Which is why I have intentionally left the specific costs out of this post. (If you would like to read a bit more, here is an article for The Daily Record that has some of the numbers included)
So where do we go from here? The decision that the Council makes is likely a permanent one. Which means it does not only impact the City now, but its implications impact the Rittman that will be.
So I want your input. I do have an inclination at this time, but I am want to listen to the people of Rittman as well. Please take the time to call me (234.206.1033), email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), or use this form to share your thoughts.