Welcome, fight fans, to the Sandusky City Commission Monday Night Extravaganza.
In this corner, we have Commissioner and former police chief Kim Neusse and her packet of facts, figures and testimonials about International City/County Management Association, a group being considered to conduct a study of both the fire and police departments.
And in this corner, we have Commissioner Julie Farrar and the Sandusky Police Department, who will not give up until all idled officers are back on the payroll.
And that's the problem. The decision about Sandusky's future has come down to which combatant you like better.
The question as to whether Sandusky should spring for a somewhat costly safety services study has become mired down in confrontational rhetoric. This match has stalled productive solutions to the city's money problems. Regardless of the outcome, if Sandusky residents and their commission representatives don't iron something out quickly, the big losers of this match will be the people of Sandusky.
We need to step back and reacquaint ourselves with the facts.
-- The city is in a tight financial situation. City departments have made cuts to try to ease the pain of lost revenues.
-- The city is operating with an acting city manager, an acting fire chief and an acting police chief. City departments are in a holding pattern as far as leadership is concerned, in spite of the best efforts of those who have stepped up to the plate to fill these temporary positions.
-- An unbiased study by an outside firm would indicate if we need more safety service personnel, or fewer. Do the demographics of the city call for a stronger police force? Are our police, fire, dispatch and emergency services operating at peak capacity? These are questions that need to be answered and not by the people whose livelihood depends on the outcome of the study. Sandusky needs to face facts head-on, particularly the ones we don't want to face.
Though we often are opposed to costly studies, particularly those which are engaged in lieu of action by the commission, this study of the safety services in Sandusky could do much to allleviate the drain on the budget in the long run.
Some officers have pointed out the $62,500 for the study could pay to bring one cop back on the job for a year or at least a major part of a year.
With no restructuring, no reform, no tightening of the force, no increased efficiency and no plans, the problems which cause safety services to commandeer 74 percent of the general fund annually will remain.
It's time to put aside the petty cult of personality this controversy has spurred and decide if we want a professionally managed study or if we want to try to maintain a system we can't afford and might not even need.