Several months ago at my “Coffee with the Commissioner” gathering at New Madison, I mentioned that someday I thought Darke County would have to take a look at going to a joint Fire district, and then maybe a joint EMS district, or both. This was me just thinking out loud in light of the current and future economic conditions. Believe it or not, we elected officials do think once in a while! I indicated that I would like to put a committee together to look at the project. I received some pretty strong negative opinions from several people who thought I wanted to undo what we have now, put people out of work, endanger lives, burn villages, and destroy civilization as we know it. The oddest comment was “Who would control this district?” Several people seemed to think this was a” Commissioner’s Power trip “or something! I have now been watching with interest the recommendations from the committee that Greenville put together to help find solutions to their budget problems.
One recommendation that intrigued me was the recommendation on looking at a joint fire district with Greenville Township. I was one of the trustee’s in 2008, and we proposed that idea to the City first, and then to the Township Trustees Association. Let’s just say it received a very cool reception from both at the time! (Ask George Luce Jr.).
Now, four years later, it may be a more receptive idea. As I have kept up with the city’s proceedings, it made me wonder “Is now the time?” Is now when we should at least look at the possibility of a County wide service? Times have changed. One thing for certain is that dollars are going to continue to shrink, and protecting the citizens will always be the first priority, even with the shrinking budgets. It is going to be a tough balancing act for all government entities to follow. For this reason, I wonder if we shouldn’t have the discussion about a County- wide fire district, or Rescue District, or both? I do not know if Greenville Township and the City of Greenville will continue to look at this option. I hope they do, and I think the trustees would be interested. If they do, it could give some insight into how it may, or may not work. Shouldn’t the rest of the County at least look at the possibility? Maybe we should all work together on this.
I think a committee made up of two citizens, the Rescue Squad Association president, The Firemen’s Association president , the head of the Mayor’s Association, the head of the Township Trustee’s Association, one commissioner, and two business owners give it a look. This seems like a good mix of all the concerned entities in the County. This committee of 9 people would look at every option, and make a recommendation. I think this mix of people has what every committee should have: A diversity of opinions.
Committees, in order to work correctly, need strong people willing to take some heat for looking into such a sensitive area. Trust me, this is a sensitive area! It is my opinion, however, that government should always try to spend the taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible, and that always includes looking at every option available. That is what we are supposed to do no matter how much some people complain about their “Ox getting gored” as the saying goes. Some options will make some people angry (like this one!), some will seem extreme,some will seem sensible, but it is important to look at all of them to make sure you are doing the best you can with the people’s money and security.
With dollars tighter, we must look at all the possibilities? What could it hurt? I have not talked to anyone on the city’s committee, so I don’t know if they have any information on Joint Districts? I have no idea how one would work for us, but it is done other places, why not here? Our firefighters and rescue people do an incredible job now. No arguing that. I do not want to put anyone out of a position of power, or out of work, or in danger. I am sure though that things would have to change somewhat. I never want Darke County to fall into the trap that most politicians and others fall into and that is: “We have always done it this way!”
One question should always be asked every day: Can we do better? Can dollars be spent more wisely? Can the people be served more efficiently? Is a Joint District more cost effective? Would it be more expensive? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I am willing to at least look into it, aren’t you?
Let me know your thoughts on this subject, pro and con.
Mike Stegall is a Darke County Commissioner . He can be reached at (937) 547-7300 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.