Madison County Magistrate Bill Tudor has gone on record to say the city of Richmond could save money by joining joint 911. He didn’t say how much, but rumors have it around $300,000.

In our story about this issue, city commissioner Mike Brewer said, “We are not interested in joining the county wide operation. We are doing just fine and it’s not about money.” If it’s not about money, then Brewer needs to tell us what it is about.

First of all, is Brewer speaking for himself or the entire city commission? Considering how much money could be saved, why wouldn’t he or the city commission seriously consider consolidated 911? Richmond is drowning in red ink.

Secondly, are Brewer and the city commission really taking the city’s financial health as seriously as they should? One could question that because he — apparently speaking for the city commission — already has closed the door on this issue even before interim city manager Jimmy Howard has had the opportunity to create a plan to restore the city’s financial health.

The commission seems to be ignoring the urgency of the crisis before them.

As Howard and finance director Mike Broyles begin to create a game plan, there should be no sacred cows or political interference when it comes to creating a realistic balanced budget. They need to be able to objectively analyze every aspect of city operations without political influence in order to create a plan that will work. I’m confident they can do that if the city commission remains on the sidelines.

There are tough choices to make because the city’s financial crisis is not a pretty picture, with revenues are overstated by $3 million. Realistic revenue expectations for 2010 will probably end up around $22.5 million, while expenses (based on current operations) will probably end up around $24.5 million, causing the $2 million deficit.

However, Brewer can’t make tough decisions. He has stated he is not for layoffs and the money it would save. If personnel expenses, such as savings from joining consolidated 911, are not addressed in some fashion, it will be difficult for the city to reduce this deficit through non-personnel expenses only.

Furthermore, Richmond Mayor Connie Lawson has long been an advocate of a joint 911. In fact it is one of the issues she ran on in 2002. According to her candidate profile published on November 2, 2002 in the Richmond Register, the following items are things she wanted to change: “We need to improve on a comprehensive plan and work very closely with the county government especially in the area of 911. I see no reason to duplicate services. I would like to have a city commission that could work like a team with everybody sharing equal responsibility.”

Apparently, Brewer isn’t a real team player and doesn’t share that same philosophy, because every time the issue of 911 surfaces, he gets very defensive. His reasons seem to be self-serving and certainly not indicative of a great team player who will put aside personal agendas and egos for the greater good of the team and the citizens of Richmond.

If Lawson still is passionate about joint 911 and a creating team that will work together to turn this city around, then it is time she accepts responsibility for the crisis and takes charge, as well as dealing with any city commissioner who is not a team player.

Nick Lewis is publisher of the Richmond Register. He can be reached at nlewis@cnhi.com or 624-6682.

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