Starve the beast

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Local government is running rampant. What we need is a dictator to coordinate and hold costs to a more reasonable level.

Case in point. This week, the Red Willow County Board may decide to hire a replacement director for the County Health Department. Possibly they will hire an interim director and kick the can down the road until the end of the year. Probably the end result will be to eliminate the department completely.

In my opinion there is no doubt the Red Willow County Health Department has done exemplary service for the local populace a lot of years. Red Willow paid the bills but persons from surrounding counties from miles around came to avail themselves of immunizations and the plethora of other low-cost services they provided. Then several years ago the Nebraska Legislature decreed that all the citizens in all the counties of the state were to be provided public health services. Best I remember they had a large amount of free money from a tobacco settlement, or some such, so proposed handing the money out in the form of grants to form regional Health Departments.

Logically the existing Red Willow County unit could have been expanded but, no, an all-new Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department was created and staffed. The new unit included Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnace, Hayes, Hitchcock, Perkins Counties and, yes, Red Willow too.

Typical of grants, the new entity was paid for, but continuing expense would have to be picked up by the included counties. Hello double coverage and double cost for the citizens of Red Willow County. Dumb bureaucratic decision, but "what the heck it is only a small part of the property levy, nobody will miss it" seems to be the attitude.

Now the county board is left to straighten out the mess but where were they when that turkey was first created?

This week I chanced to meet with another former commissioner. He had just come from paying a bill at the new "Taj Mahal," which I surmised was the just opened city offices, fire and police building. He had tried to deposit his bill in the poorly-designed drop box that proved inaccessible to his pickup, so he parked and went inside to pay. The many comments that I've heard indicates that it is the "ugliest" building in town. Well, we didn't pay millions for the ascetics, so if it is a better workplace for our dedicated city employees it may well be worth the price. Don't hassle the good people who work there, they didn't design the place, they just have to make it function. For sure, their past fire, police, and administration spaces had grown like Topsy and were at best inefficient.

The problem is that now again, we are duplicating services. Prior, the McCook police provided 24-hour dispatch and the dispatchers did double duty as jailers.

The police, of course, kept the dispatch for this move but the county sheriff's office had to double in size to provide 24-hour jail service. Why do we need two law enforcement agencies, anyhow, when one for our small county would be more than adequate?

"What the heck the added expense will only be a small increase in the property levy, nobody will miss it," seems to be the plan.

The City Council is fishing for ideas for what do with the auditorium, from which office space they just vacated. A plan should have been part of the original decision to build new, but typically those details, which the public could immediately perceive would hit them in the pocket book and vote unfavorably on the bond election to build new, were conveniently ignored. Now the old auditorium could be recast into an economical county jail but the county board evidently has their heart set on building new. "What the heck, the levy will go up. You don't have to like it but you will get used to it!"

Back in the planning stages a local dictator could have brought the city, county, police and sheriff, county- and state-directed health departments together and pounded out a solution to meet the needs of the public.

Gone could have been expensive duplication of service and ever expanding personnel requirements. Oh, you say, we do have a democratically elected republic form of government and we elected representatives to show good sense and do government for us. As Pogo said "We have met the enemy and they are us."

The few examples above suggest that our representatives aren't doing a very good job of being frugal. We don't need a dictator, we just need to be a better-informed electorate and not vote for bond issues to overbuild municipal buildings and overgrown duplicated services. Harry Strunk's Gazette would not have let such irresponsibility slip by unnoticed.

We the public need to attend budget meetings and insist on squeezing costs. In my opinion, the only way to tame the over-fat government beast is to starve the thing. And, oh yes, if our elected representatives don't listen send them packing at the next election. Where is another frugal commissioner in the style of Eldon Moore when we so sorely need him?

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail

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  • You keep using that word.


    I do not think it means what you think it means.

    While it might accurately describe those who worked in the OLD buildings, it no longer would seem to apply.

    Now, aesthetics? You may have a point there. Personally, I'm more interested in the functionality.

    As for the jail issue, I'd have thought that you, of all people, having served on both county and city governing bodies, should know the laws and history involved. And why the city, rather than the county, was running a "holding facility" in the first place - and the restrictions upon it.

    -- Posted by Owen McPhillips on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 11:07 PM
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