2010-04-01 / Letters to the Editor

Look deeper before cutting ACO position

Last Monday’s Town budget workshop was an example of when morality and compassion mean more than numbers.

I listened to the town administrator discuss the numbers and his views on areas where he, in good faith, believes the town could save some money. As anticipated, the turnout of people and a majority of the dialogue from those of us in attendance was in support of saving our animal control officer’s job. However, as I sat there quietly, I realized the larger message being sent is about who we are as a community.

I heard the administrator talk about how some of the ACO duties could be absorbed by the police officers. I also heard that the administrator has spoken with adjoining towns and has confidence that the balance of services can be performed by sources outside our community for a nominal fee. Regionalization is what we are talking about and in my opinion, is against the very core of what Jamestown is as a community.

Just on the surface the question becomes (a) at what nominal cost and (b) at what cost in terms of personal care and consideration are those services going to be delivered? I also observed many members of the police department in attendance, none of whom seemed eager to step in and speak either in favor of eliminating the ACO position or in acceptance of taking on additional duties.

I suggest that silence speaks volumes.

The administrator was happy to be able to deliver how we were rated by the state as the top one or two least fiscally stressed communities in the state. Well, Mr. Administrator, you basically made my case as I sat there listening from my vantage point.

I would strongly argue that one of the most important reasons that this is true is because of the many volunteers and public safety services the community has in place, which it clearly doesn’t have to fund in the manner that “regional communities” have to pay for. It is not because these people would not enjoy making a living performing these services right here in Jamestown. It is about who we are as a small town community. For many of us, it is an idea that was passed down through generations. It is just what we do.

When you are looking for budget items to cut (especially involving anyone’s livelihood), you need to also be thinking about what the fiscal position of the town would be if it had to fully fund all areas of public safety and services. In my opinion, the idea of going “regional” goes directly against what many of us remember this community to be and what it needs to return to.

I left this meeting with the feeling that the support for the ACO was merely a catalyst to a much bigger statement, which I truly hope you all heard. This community has always been built by its own people, with no reservation in doing so. I suggest that you come to understand that you have not opened up a budget line item for discussion; you opened a can of worms.

I ask both the Town Administrator and the Town Council to consider that there are many areas that could – and to be fiscally responsible, should – be examined for productivity, efficiency and possible waste to be trimmed. I have been responsible for a few profit and loss statements in my day and one undeniable truth I have found is that the biggest savings are realized in the hardest-to-find areas – not the easy ones.

I’ll go so far as to give you one example of where I feel the town has squandered time and money. How much of the $75,000 compensation package in question could we save if we were to review all costs of the committees and outside specialists brought in to perform studies on ideas debated for years, only to have the findings of these committees completely disregarded. Often, new committees are requested and charged to seek the same data. What has this cost the community?

You heard many in this community stand up and say this is what we believe Jamestown is about. Cutting dedicated people’s livelihood after years of service and then outsourcing even a portion of that person’s position is a slap in the face that this community is not going to accept. Your rationale to the citizens was to say, well, the services are required; it is just not this person that is needed to perform them.

I think you should cast aside that idea and look deeper.
Paul Christman

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