We're not ready to pronounce the $100,000 study on county dispatch dead on arrival, but the preview county commissioner Tom Ferrell Jr. offered regarding its conclusions, and the recently announced delay to complete the work sure does raise suspicions.
Ferrell pushed hard for the study, which he said would cost $60,000 and be paid for with federal grant money, after Sandusky and Perkins began looking at combining their dispatch operations. He said his discussions with the consultants the county hired told him the study will offer three possibilities for changing the way emergency dispatch services are delivered: a combined, county-controlled dispatch service; the Sandusky-Perkins option that might include Huron, Castalia and services to other areas; or a combination of the options.
We knew all that 18 months ago. County commissioners -- and Ferrell in particular -- did not have to go out and spend $100,000 of taxpayer money for a study to tell us what we already knew and were told about. If that's all there is, this study will be yet another example of waste in government spending and bad leadership.
The Sandusky-Perkins option was always a first step toward regionalization, which will be a very long process requiring true leadership and careful planning. And the implementation of any plan will come from within, not from some out-of-state consultants who don't possibly have an understanding of the area turf wars and other obstacles that stand in the way of reform and progress.
The Sandusky-Perkins option presented the potential for an immediate and substantial reduction in taxpayer expenses while streamlining and enhancing services. Ferrell's county dispatch study has served to do just the opposite.
And the reasoning Ferrell gave for the study's delay is equally troubling: The consultants needed a better understanding of the number of emergency calls and business calls each separate dispatch operation in the county receives. Seven months into this expensive study and the consultants haven't nailed down basic information? Good luck with that.
Ferrell's behavior throughout this nearly two-year dispatch debate has been ineffective and damaging to opportunities for progress. He has not been forthcoming and we fear the study will end up as a $100,000 waste of money.