City, county still need to work together

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wouldn't it be nice if things were as simple as they appear on the surface? Take the jail and public safety needs of McCook and Red Willow County, for example. During the past several weeks, citizens have learned Red Willow County needs a jail. They have also learned that the city's public safety center is located in a hazardous location, and needs to be moved.

An easy problem to solve, right? It seems obvious the city and county should combine resources and build or remodel existing facilities to create a city-county public safety center.

But, not so fast. As always, there are dozens of ideas floating around the town and county, with some favoring city-county consolidation of law enforcement and others pushing for the city's police and fire units to go one way, and the county's jail and sheriff's department to go another.

Finally, it appears, most of the issues are on the table. The latest proposal was put forward Tuesday by McCook Fire Chief Marc Harpham, Police Chief Ike Brown and Building Inspector Doyle Wineland.

What they are proposing is that the city trade for the former East Ward School property, and turn it into a facility to house the city's fire and police departments, as well as other city offices.

One of the main concerns -- as outlined by Chief Harpham -- are the hazards which exist at the current public safety center, which is located near the railroad, the highway and grain elevator and propane facilities.

It's a good point, and the city officials are to be commended for bringing the problem to the community's attention. However, City Council members urged caution, pointing out that a residential location might not be the best site for a fire and police center.

But, what is the best place? Where -- in town -- is there a location that meets all the criteria for a jail and public safety center? Remember, it needs to be far from hazards, centrally located, away from residential areas and spacious enough to accommodate all public safety needs. One of the most important considerations is response time, since that is a major factor in determining insurance rates for city and county residents.

When all points are considered, the most reasonable approach still seems obvious. The city and the county need to work together and they need to plan together. Whether they decide upon separate or shared facilities, the needs of taxpaying citizens will be best served by a cooperative approach of city and county government agencies.

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