Dispatch issue sign of bigger problem

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Something bad happened on Wednesday morning in the city of Ironton. The system broke down and one of the most basic functions of government failed in Ironton.

For a time early Wednesday, calls made to the Ironton police department went unanswered. These could have been potentially serious. And no one really wants to take the blame.

Email newsletter signup

The issue began weeks ago as the police department found itself without enough money to pay its employees the overtime they worked. This week, the mandate came out that no more overtime could be worked until more funds could be moved to cover the already law-violating practice of not paying officers and dispatchers for overtime already worked.

With no money, and no possibility of overtime, the city had no choice but to not staff a dispatching shift. The city and the county's 911 office worked out an agreement, or so they thought. When everyone involved went to bed on Tuesday night, the issue was resolved, or so they thought.

Early Wednesday, officials learned that the county refused to handle and dispatch non-911 calls for the city. Apparently a handful of angry city union members and a handful of scared county politicians decided it was best to avoid the issue entirely. The result? Unanswered calls.

At what point does doing what is right for the community outweigh the political fear of losing a few votes? With all due respect to the majority of union members who work hard day in and day out dedicating their work for the public good, a few among them seem hell bent on getting their way, regardless of the costs. Enough is enough.

Last summer, garbage piled up in the streets because a few people didn't want the city to cut jobs from the sanitation department. Then a long-standing tradition of using municipal court workers to do basic maintenance in the city was tossed on its ear for fear that it infringed on union members' rights to work. And on Wednesday they forced the hand of the city and county governments to the point at which public safety was potentially threatened.

But the problems do not solely rest with the union. The elected officials are equally to blame - if not more so. Last week, the Ironton City Council adjourned early because the majority didn't want to hear one of their own hop on a soapbox and preach during the meeting. This week, in a continuation of their dispute, a special meeting was called; the opposition didn't show, thus stifling the chance of any communication - again.

At some point, Ironton must realize that for it to survive, the bickering, backbiting and childish behavior must stop.

The phone of responsibility is ringing, folks. Will anyone pick it up?