“I’d guess that $452,426.64 would pay the salaries of 8-10 of those trained and equipped deputies (Sheriff) Stan (Hilkey) will be axing. Their money would really be turning over in our local economy buying clothing, gas and groceries, and local services. That list of 450 businesses getting a maximum refund contains many Mom and Pops, but is long on names like Xcel, AT&T, Bresnan, Halliburton, and other outfits who’ll ultimately be depositing their relatively paltry financial windfall in some out-of-town account. Many might rather have a timely appearance by a deputy when needed.”
“When I was first asked to find $3.4 Million in next year’s budget my shock and disbelief was off the scale, which was part of my emotional response to the request. It didn’t take long however to be reminded by the news articles and stories about others going through this pain to realize that the public we are serving is also in pain and it is not unreasonable for them to add to their expectations of us the expectation of cutting back.”
“There is little doubt that the armchair quarterbacking will commence on the changes we’ll make. That is inevitable within a community and agency of our size…Heck, even I lack total confidence that we’ve planned perfectly. We will have to make adjustments as we go and respond to problems as they occur, but isn’t that really the business we are in anyway?”
Public Safety is largely a reactive profession that has in recent years learned, especially since 9/11, the value of mutual respect, coordination, and planning. Still, things happen that can’t be foreseen, and the Sheriff’s Department, arguably the most important service provider that the County funds, does tremendous things and leverages considerable resources from the community to do them. This includes citizens giving of themselves and their life experience by serving a government agency as volunteers.
Despite the Sheriff’s admonition about ‘armchair quarterbacking’, I’m still tempted to wonder how many of his positions could be spared if the County Administrator and Solid Waste Director positions remained vacant for another year. That’s almost $250,000 on top of the nearly half a million that Mr. Spehar pointed out.
Sheriff Hilkey and Mr. Spehar are and have been public servants that have made considerable contributions of their life capital to help assure that our citizens receive adequate services, and that those services are provided in a professional and financially responsible way. Their short comments on this particular issue reflect their understanding of the difficulties involved, and highlight the leadership qualities that each possesses. Many of us who write about local affairs, myself included, have a lot to learn in these areas.
In this turbulent economic and political climate, regardless of political ideology, perhaps what Mr. Spehar said about the Commissioners’ recent actions is something we can all learn a bit from. We need to avoid becoming “long on political action and rhetoric and short on basic common sense.”
Have a good weekend.