MAYVILLE - The Public Safety Committee is not going to volunteer any police or fire services for the chopping block.
That was the message Doug Richmond, R-Westfield, shared with the Audit and Control Committee at a special meeting last week. Richmond sits on the Audit and Control Committee, but chairs the legislature's Public Safety Committee.
Legislators voted earlier this year to have committees put together prioritized lists of the county's non-mandated expenses. Rather than turn in a list to Audit and Control, Richmond read a statement - literally saying that Public Safety is reluctant to cut any services.
Legislators John Gullo, D-Fredonia, at right, and Doug Richmond, R-Westfield, second from right, sparred at a recent Audit and Control Committee meeting.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
Rather than prioritize the county's non-mandated expenses for possible elimination, Richmond proposed directing department heads to decrease all their services by a certain percentage. He also spoke of the need for what public safety provides the county, in terms of protecting its citizens.
Richmond reiterated his concerns Wednesday in conversation with The Post-Journal. He also spoke of how much the county receives in services for what it spends, saying that some emergency services give back $100 in benefit for every $1 invested by the county.
"My belief is that, as we as legislators are doing this exercise, all of the managers of these departments are going through the same exercise with the county executive."
"He is meeting with them and I'm not real comfortable, personally, with us second guessing what's going on there," Richmond continued. "I think that we should have the right arm knowing what the left arm is doing. So, because of that, it was my feeling, and I felt I got a consensus from the entire committee, that we're not going to be laying various items on the chopping block at this point."
Fredonia Democrat John Gullo is also a member of the Audit and Control Committee. Reached for comment by The Post-Journal on Wednesday, Gullo characterized his response to Richmond in committee as "outraged." The transcript of the meeting can be found online with this article at www.post-journal.com.
In Audit and Control, Gullo called the Public Safety Committee's response "completely unacceptable."
"While it's a valid point of view that you don't believe anything should be cut, it's unacceptable," Gullo said Wednesday. "At the very least, what we've asked from the Public Safety Committee is that they rank the importance of the programs so that if we decide upon cuts, we have their expertise. Well, they've decided not to rank things because they are thinking that the discussion will undoubtedly turn to cuts and then the lowest on the list will be what's cut and they don't want to see anything cut."
Gullo asked the committee to reconsider its position and do the work requested by the legislature.
To demonstrate just what should be taking place, Gullo spoke of the importance of sheriff's road patrols when talking with The Post-Journal on Wednesday. He pointed out that some municipalities in the county do not have their own police agencies. As such, the sheriff's road patrol provides an important service to those county residents.
Snowmobile patrols on the other hand, Gullo said, are maybe not as important.
"It serves a smaller number of individuals and if we've got to cut something, I would think that would be cut, if you have to," Gullo said. "So I put road patrols at priority No. 1. As a legislator, that's my priority No. 1 - and snowmobile patrols after that. I also happen to think that the Drug Task Force serves a very important purpose in our county, so I rank that right up there with No. 1 as well. If we're going to cut something, we're sure as heck not going to cut that."
Such is the sort of list Gullo said he had hoped to see from all committees at the Aug. 4 Audit and Control Committee.
"There are multiple things that the sheriff does that are important," Gullo said Wednesday. "But there are also things that are less important, in my opinion. I'm just one guy though. I wanted the committee to tell me what I was missing and why certain services are maybe actually more important than others. I'm open to that. They're on the committee. I'm open to being told that I'm wrong, just tell me I'm wrong and show me. Prove it. I'm not saying I'm always right. It's that refusal to partake in that intelligent discussion that I object to."
Gullo also said that though the recent discussion involved the Sheriff's Office and the services it provides, it wasn't a singling out of the sheriff alone.
"This is what the committee's doing," Gullo said of the whole prioritization process. "We need to look hard at every dollar and looking hard at every dollar involves prioritization. That's our job."
Richmond concluded his comments to The Post-Journal on Wednesday by saying that he and his committee would rather wait for the county executive's budget proposal before putting forth any possible cuts.
"My personal feeling is, let's see what happens with the county executive's budget when he comes out with it," Richmond said Wednesday. "Let's see where that settles in and then let us legislators come to the forefront and make cuts."