I wanted to provide additional information on recent Journal articles that I didn’t feel were fully addressing the topic reported on….
Increasing Water Rates
If you haven’t read it yet, look at the blog posts “Water and Sewer (Part 1) and (Part 2)” to better understand what we are working on for future water rates and the process to evaluate those decisions.
Monroe Fire Department Collaboration
At this time, the Middletown and Monroe Fire Chiefs are in discussions on a number of topics including automatic aid, community paramedicine, and other possible collaborations that would either improve service to both communities and/or save costs to both communities. As they explore these various topics and come to some conclusions as to whether there are areas of cooperation that would benefit both cities, they will pass those recommendations onto both City Managers. At that point, the Monroe City Manager and I would evaluate the recommendations and if we each believed that the recommendations benefited our respective city, he and I would then talk about the process and content of what would be taken before each City Council for future consideration. Right now, we are at step one of a discussion that may or may not produce future collaborations and results. Time will tell and both cities would need to benefit from the collaboration.
Street Light Assessments
The Journal article discussed a possible $3 monthly assessment for City street lights to be paid by our residents and used for paving. At the City Council retreat, as part of the overall model presented, I told City Council that most area communities charge their residents for the costs of the electricity to run the street lights. I told them that the cost annually for City street lights was around $800,000. With 29,000+ city residences, that would equate to something like $3 per month per household. If the assessment was made and it then paid for street light electricity, the General Fund money now used for street lights could be redirected to paving while we worked on raising other revenues through Economic Development. I asked City Council if they were interested in having staff fully develop the concept by gathering information and then reporting on what other communities did on street lights and how they handled this issue, and by getting real numbers on actual electric costs and actual number of residential and business accounts and then calculating what the real dollar number per household would be per month. We also talked about converting the city street lights to LED to reduce future electric costs. City Council asked if there was a way to force the freed up funds to be dedicated to paving so that they could not be redirected to some other cause in the future. I told them we would gather the information and present it to City Council at some future meeting. We have not started on this process yet.
Closing of the Jail
Finally, on Friday, the Journal posted on their web page and will have in its print version on Sunday, an article covering Middletown’s aspiration to become an All America City again. As part of that article, they discussed a comment I made about closing the jail by 2020 and redirecting jail costs to add fire and police staff. This was a preliminary concept provided to City Council at the retreat. 2020 would be the very earliest we could even discuss closing of the jail. What I have discussed internally was that I would like to develop a plan to reduce crime by 2020 so that the costs of housing arrested people at Butler County jail and transporting them back and forth to Middletown was less than or equal to our current jail costs. We do not have that plan yet. We have not discussed the concept with the Butler County jail, the Sheriff’s Office, Middletown Municipal Court or anyone else. The BC Jail would have to be able to handle our defendants. We would have to work out transportation and potentially even video arraignments. It would change the cost and revenue structure of Middletown Municipal Court. We have Corrections Officers covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Crime would have to be down enough that the cost could work. We have defendants in Butler and Warren County to figure out. And on and on. A preliminary concept that couldn’t happen for at least five years looks like a sure thing in the article.
Most communities no longer have a municipal jail. The cost for ours is about $1.3 million for 2016. IF we could get crime down far enough in the city, I would like to look at some future point at closing the jail and redistributing the funds to add police officers and firemen. That would be a multi-year discussion with Police Administration, the Courts, the unions, and the County (potentially two counties) before such a thing could be contemplated. I apologize to my Corrections Officers, Judge Wall and the FOP for the poor coverage in this article. If I get serious about closing the jail, there will be many internal discussions over several years with all involved before we would ever consider such a move.
Have a great weekend!