Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where's Plan B?

The Kenosha County Board approved the 2008 county budget last night.

Along with a 3.95% property tax increase came a halt on building the $19 million public safety facility on the county grounds at Highways 45 and 50 in Bristol.

There wasn't just one reason for shelving the project but an amalgamation of opponents to moving forward succeeded in blocking it.

The problem is that they don't have an alternative plan -- and the needs underlying the proposed facility still exist.

True, it's no secret that even I have reservations about this. Nonetheless I agree that the sheriff's department needs a west end substation, the medical examiner needs proper digs and Joint Services dispatch needs an upgraded communications facility.

I'm not so sure about whether Emergency Government needs to move out of downtown Kenosha and I definitely know that relocating the dispatch center from the City-County Public Safety Building flies in the face of the very reason the facility was built.

Moving the dispatch center is a crazy idea that never should have gotten to first base. Nonetheless, some creative space utilization will be needed to upgrade the dispatch center and planning should get underway pronto.

Same for the medical examiner. Since the major constituent agencies are based in downtown Kenosha it makes sense for the medical examiner's new digs to be close to them. Moving out to Bristol doesn't make sense. The need, though, still exists.

Sheriff Dave Beth has to be spinning about not moving forward with a sheriff's substation. It's not a "want" but rather very much a "need."

The vast majority of the sheriff's road patrol responsibility is west of Interstate 94 and with the entire country growing it makes sense to have some deputies based in the western part of the county. Future growth trends solidly indicate that this need will only get more intense as the months go by.

However, with the City of Kenosha and Village of Pleasant Prairie poised to move west to, say, County Trunk MB, it also flies in the face of good logic to build at Highways 45 and 50. In short, while the county may own land there, it isn't "west enough" to be effective.

Serious thought should be given to cutting a deal with the Village of Twin Lakes to build an addition onto its new police station to house a sheriff's substation.

Besides legitimately being in the "west end" of the county, the police building was designed for future expansion. It's already staffed around-the-clock. Plus, adding some space for the sheriff's department may ameliorate the recent complaints from Chief of Police Dale Racer that deputies aren't patrolling the west end as often as he'd like.

Regardless of what avenues are taken to solve these problems they are, still, problems that must be addressed and the county board can't just run away from them and hope that they'll go away.

It's rumored that $400,000 has been spent so far on the shelved project. If the county board doesn't like the plan, they need to come up with another one -- and they need to do it NOW.

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