The joint dispatch-regional dispatch debate reared its ugly head again last week. Bill Dwelle acted on his all-consuming desire to destroy Perkins Township police Chief Tim McClung, and Jeff Ferrell responded with loyalty to his brother. Together, they canceled the First Amendment in Perkins Township so nobody can talk about the virtues of joint dispatch between Perkins Township and Sandusky.
Here's the bottom line: Dwelle is consumed with hatred for McClung. That unhealthy obsession has nothing to do with whether there's efficiency and accountability in the Police Department. It's all about control and returning to the good old days when good old boys were king. Jeff Ferrell is simply doing his brother's bidding, and that too is all about control and good old boys.
Voters made a mistake in 2005 when they returned Dwelle to the Perkins Township trustee board. They didn't ask him about coffins filled with cocaine and the other tin-foil hat conspiracy theories he can't stop thinking about. He pretends he wants to restore fiscal order but ignores the virtues of joint dispatch for fear McClung will get credit for fostering cooperation, improving services and reducing expenses.
And Jeff Ferrell got into the race last year at the behest of his brother, County Commissioner Tom Ferrell, who wanted to make sure the trustee board would not go forward with joint dispatch. Jeff Ferrell + Bill Dwelle = board majority, and the most innovative and worthy proposal to come along in years -- joint dispatch -- gets sidelined for Tom Ferrell's pipe dream.
Tom Ferrell initially claimed the law was on his side -- that it required the sheriff to provide central dispatch -- but that wouldn't fly because that's not how it is. Then he formed a committee, excluding both McClung and Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse, to decide how to move forward with a county-controlled regional dispatch service. McClung and Nuesse have more experience with dispatch than all the members of Tom's committee combined, but including them would have compromised Tom's agenda.
A regional dispatch study would cost $60,000, Tom Ferrell said, and that would be paid for with state or federal grant money. That also proved untrue, and local taxpayers ponied up more than $90,000 for the study that will say exactly what Tom wants it to say and be completed just in time for the general election campaign.
Tom will look like a genius. The study will give a roadmap to centralized regional dispatch promising cost savings and improved services just short of Nirvana. The Democratic Party will rally around and thank its great leader for his wise counsel. Everyone will talk about how wonderful it all is.
But by January 2009 reality will set in, and commissioners will incorporate regional dispatch into the vague and wimpy list of county commissioner goals worded so they are easy to accomplish. "Move forward with regional dispatch by talking to all area governments and encouraging each to participate."
They'll tackle dispatch with the same fervor they've tackled jail overcrowding, courthouse security, 911 cell phone service, economic development and jobs. It won't happen.
McClung and Perkins police Lt. Al Matthews both will have walked away with seven-figure settlements in their lawsuit against Dwelle and the township for unfairly targeting them and creating a hostile work environment after Dwelle breaks down on the witness stand and admits again -- like he did last week when he suspended the First Amendment -- that he's always been targeting them.
Residents are angry but blame McClung, Matthews, me and a flawed legal system for the mess. Dwelle gets a pass on his bad behavior that led to the lawsuit and gets a pass when the liability insurance premium for the township goes up by $50,000 annually because of the claim history.
So let's add all this up ...
$500,000 (joint dispatch equipment savings) + $140,000 (joint headquarters-dispatch first-year manpower savings) = $640,000 (spent because it was not saved).
$640,000 (above) + $90,000 (regional dispatch study) + $1,400,000 (McClung settlement) + $1,500,000 (Matthews settlement) + $50,000 (Perkins liability first-year insurance premium hike) = $3.68 million spent.
Thanks for your leadership Tom, Bill and Jeff.
On behalf of taxpayers everywhere, thanks a lot.